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					                  Coradella Collegiate Bookshelf Editions.




         The Egoist.
       George Meredith.




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           About the author

              George Meredith (February 12, 1828 - May 18, 1909)
           was an English novelist and poet.
              He was born in Portsmouth, England. His mother died
           when he was five. At the age of 14 he was sent to a Moravian
           School in Neuwied, Germany where he remained for two years.
           He read law and was articled as a solicitor, but abadoned that
           profession for writing shortly after marrying Mary Ellen
           Nicolls, a widowed daughter of Thomas Love Peacock in 1849.
           He collected his early writings, first published in periodicals,
           into Poems, which was published to some acclaim in 1851.
           His wife left him in 1858 and died three years later.
              Meanwhile he had begun writing novels and first achieved
           distinction in that genre with The Ordeal of Richard Feveral.
           He married Marie Vulliamy in 1864 and settled in Surrey.
           He continued writing novels, and later in life he returned to
           writing poetry, often inspired by nature.
              As an advisor to publishers, Meredith is credited with
           helping Thomas Hardy start his literary career.
Contents
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           Contents
               Prelude.                      Chapter 26.
               Chapter 1.                    Chapter 27.       Click on a number in the chapter list to go
               Chapter 2.                    Chapter 28.   to the first page of that chapter.
               Chapter 3.                    Chapter 29.
                                                               Note:
               Chapter 4.                    Chapter 30.
                                                               The best way to read this ebook is in Full
               Chapter 5.                    Chapter 31.   Screen mode: click View, Full Screen to set
               Chapter 6.                    Chapter 32.   Adobe Acrobat to Full Screen View. This mode
               Chapter 7.                    Chapter 33.   allows you to use Page Down to go to the next
               Chapter 8.                    Chapter 34.   page, and affords the best reading view. Press
               Chapter 9.                    Chapter 35.   Escape to exit the Full Screen View.
               Chapter 10.                   Chapter 36.
               Chapter 11.                   Chapter 37.
               Chapter 12.                   Chapter 38.
               Chapter 13.                   Chapter 39.
               Chapter 14.                   Chapter 40.
               Chapter 15.                   Chapter 41.
               Chapter 16.                   Chapter 42.
               Chapter 17.                   Chapter 43.
               Chapter 18.                   Chapter 44.
               Chapter 19.                   Chapter 45.
               Chapter 20.                   Chapter 46.
               Chapter 21.                   Chapter 47.
               Chapter 22.                   Chapter 48.
Contents




               Chapter 23.                   Chapter 49.
               Chapter 24.                   Chapter 50.
               Chapter 25.
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                George Meredith. The Egoist.                                           http://collegebookshelf.net                                         1




                       The Egoist.                                                                                Prelude.
                                                                                             A chapter of which the last page only is of any importance.

                                                                                           Comedy is a game played to throw reflections upon social
                                                                                       life, and it deals with human nature in the drawing-room of
                                                                                       civilized men and women, where we have no dust of the strug-
                                                                                       gling outer world, no mire, no violent crashes, to make the
                                                                                       correctness of the representation convincing. Credulity is not
                                                                                       wooed through the impressionable senses; nor have we re-
                                                                                       course to the small circular glow of the watchmaker’s eye to
                                                                                       raise in bright relief minutest grains of evidence for the rout-
                                                                                       ing of incredulity. The Comic Spirit conceives a definite situ-
                                            NOTICE
                                                                                       ation for a number of characters, and rejects all accessories in
Contents




                           Copyright © 2004 thewritedirection.net                      the exclusive pursuit of them and their speech. For being a
           Please note that although the text of this ebook is in the public domain,
                       this pdf edition is a copyrighted publication.                  spirit, he hunts the spirit in men; vision and ardour consti-
                                 FOR COMPLETE DETAILS, SEE                             tute his merit; he has not a thought of persuading you to
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           2                                                                                                                                   3

           believe in him. Follow and you will see. But there is a ques-       required to give us those interminable milepost piles of mat-
           tion of the value of a run at his heels.                            ter (extending well-nigh to the very Pole) in essence, in cho-
               Now the world is possessed of a certain big book, the big-      sen samples, digestibly. I conceive him to indicate that the
           gest book on earth; that might indeed be called the Book of         realistic method of a conscientious transcription of all the
           Earth; whose title is the Book of Egoism, and it is a book full     visible, and a repetition of all the audible, is mainly account-
           of the world’s wisdom. So full of it, and of such dimensions is     able for our present branfulness, and that prolongation of the
           this book, in which the generations have written ever since         vasty and the noisy, out of which, as from an undrained fen,
           they took to writing, that to be profitable to us the Book          steams the malady of sameness, our modern malady. We have
           needs a powerful compression.                                       the malady, whatever may be the cure or the cause. We drove
               Who, says the notable humourist, in allusion to this Book,      in a body to Science the other day for an antidote; which was
           who can studiously travel through sheets of leaves now ca-          as if tired pedestrians should mount the engine-box of head-
           pable of a stretch from the Lizard to the last few poor pul-        long trains; and Science introduced us to our o’er-hoary an-
           monary snips and shreds of leagues dancing on their toes for        cestry—them in the Oriental posture; whereupon we set up a
           cold, explorers tell us, and catching breath by good luck, like     primaeval chattering to rival the Amazon forest nigh night-
           dogs at bones about a table, on the edge of the Pole? Inordi-       fall, cured, we fancied. And before daybreak our disease was
           nate unvaried length, sheer longinquity, staggers the heart,        hanging on to us again, with the extension of a tail. We had it
           ages the very heart of us at a view. And how if we manage           fore and aft. We were the same, and animals into the bargain.
           finally to print one of our pages on the crow-scalp of that         That is all we got from Science.
           solitary majestic outsider? We may get him into the Book;               Art is the specific. We have little to learn of apes, and they
           yet the knowledge we want will not be more present with us          may be left. The chief consideration for us is, what particular
           than it was when the chapters hung their end over the cliff         practice of Art in letters is the best for the perusal of the
           you ken of at Dover, where sits our great lord and master           Book of our common wisdom; so that with clearer minds and
           contemplating the seas without upon the reflex of that within!      livelier manners we may escape, as it were, into daylight and
               In other words, as I venture to translate him (humourists       song from a land of fog-horns. Shall we read it by the
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           are difficult: it is a piece of their humour to puzzle our wits),   watchmaker’s eye in luminous rings eruptive of the infinitesi-
           the inward mirror, the embracing and condensing spirit, is          mal, or pointed with examples and types under the broad
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           4                                                                                                                                       5

           Alpine survey of the spirit born of our united social intelli-        gallop; let them gallop with the God bestriding them; gallop
           gence, which is the Comic Spirit? Wise men say the latter.            to Hymen, gallop to Hades, they strike the same note. Mon-
           They tell us that there is a constant tendency in the Book to         strous monotonousness has enfolded us as with the arms of
           accumulate excess of substance, and such repleteness, obscur-         Amphitrite! We hear a shout of war for a diversion.—Com-
           ing the glass it holds to mankind, renders us inexact in the          edy he pronounces to be our means of reading swiftly and
           recognition of our individual countenances: a perilous thing          comprehensively. She it is who proposes the correcting of pre-
           for civilization. And these wise men are strong in their opin-        tentiousness, of inflation, of dulness, and of the vestiges of
           ion that we should encourage the Comic Spirit, who is after           rawness and grossness to be found among us. She is the ulti-
           all our own offspring, to relieve the Book. Comedy, they say,         mate civilizer, the polisher, a sweet cook. If, he says, she watches
           is the true diversion, as it is likewise the key of the great Book,   over sentimentalism with a birch-rod, she is not opposed to
           the music of the Book. They tell us how it condenses whole            romance. You may love, and warmly love, so long as you are
           sections of the book in a sentence, volumes in a character; so        honest. Do not offend reason. A lover pretending too much
           that a fair pan of a book outstripping thousands of leagues           by one foot’s length of pretence, will have that foot caught in
           when unrolled may he compassed in one comic sitting.                  her trap. In Comedy is the singular scene of charity issuing of
               For verily, say they, we must read what we can of it, at least    disdain under the stroke of honourable laughter: an Ariel re-
           the page before us, if we would be men. One, with an index            leased by Prospero’s wand from the fetters of the damned
           on the Book, cries out, in a style pardonable to his fervency:        witch Sycorax. And this laughter of reason refreshed is florif-
           The remedy of your frightful affliction is here, through the          erous, like the magical great gale of the shifty Spring deciding
           stillatory of Comedy, and not in Science, nor yet in Speed,           for Summer. You hear it giving the delicate spirit his liberty.
           whose name is but another for voracity. Why, to be alive, to          Listen, for comparison, to an unleavened society: a low as of
           be quick in the soul, there should be diversity in the compan-        the udderful cow past milking hour! O for a titled ecclesiastic
           ion throbs of your pulses. Interrogate them. They lump along          to curse to excommunication that unholy thing!—So far an
           like the old loblegs of Dobbin the horse; or do their business        enthusiast perhaps; but he should have a hearing.
           like cudgels of carpet-thwackers expelling dust or the cot-               Concerning pathos, no ship can now set sail without pa-
Contents




           tage-clock pendulum teaching the infant hour over midnight            thos; and we are not totally deficient of pathos; which is, I do
           simple arithmetic. This too in spite of Bacchus. And let them         not accurately know what, if not the ballast, reducible to
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           6                                                                                                                               7

           moisture by patent process, on board our modern vessel; for it    confident that their grip of an English gentleman, in whom
           can hardly be the cargo, and the general water supply has         they have spied their game, never relaxes until he begins in-
           other uses; and ships well charged with it seem to sail the       sensibly to frolic and antic, unknown to himself, and comes
           stiffest:—there is a touch of pathos. The Egoist surely in-       out in the native steam which is their scent of the chase. In-
           spires pity. He who would desire to clothe himself at             stantly off they scour, Egoist and imps. They will, it is known
           everybody’s expense, and is of that desire condemned to strip     of them, dog a great House for centuries, and be at the birth
           himself stark naked, he, if pathos ever had a form, might be      of all the new heirs in succession, diligently taking confirma-
           taken for the actual person. Only he is not allowed to rush at    tory notes, to join hands and chime their chorus in one of
           you, roll you over and squeeze your body for the briny drops.     their merry rings round the tottering pillar of the House,
           There is the innovation.                                          when his turn arrives; as if they had (possibly they had) smelt
               You may as well know him out of hand, as a gentleman of       of old date a doomed colossus of Egoism in that unborn,
           our time and country, of wealth and station; a not flexile        unconceived inheritor of the stuff of the family. They dare
           figure, do what we may with him; the humour of whom               not be chuckling while Egoism is valiant, while sober, while
           scarcely dimples the surface and is distinguishable but by        socially valuable, nationally serviceable. They wait.
           very penetrative, very wicked imps, whose fits of roaring be-         Aforetime a grand old Egoism built the House. It would
           low at some generally imperceptible stroke of his quality, have   appear that ever finer essences of it are demanded to sustain
           first made the mild literary angels aware of something comic      the structure; but especially would it appear that a reversion
           in him, when they were one and all about to describe the          to the gross original, beneath a mask and in a vein of fineness,
           gentleman on the heading of the records baldly (where brev-       is an earthquake at the foundations of the House. Better that
           ity is most complimentary) as a gentleman of family and prop-     it should not have consented to motion, and have held stub-
           erty, an idol of a decorous island that admires the concrete.     bornly to all ancestral ways, than have bred that anachronic
           Imps have their freakish wickedness in them to kindle detec-      spectre. The sight, however, is one to make our squatting imps
           tive vision: malignly do they love to uncover ridiculousness in   in circle grow restless on their haunches, as they bend eyes
           imposing figures. Wherever they catch sight of Egoism they        instantly, ears at full cock, for the commencement of the comic
Contents




           pitch their camps, they circle and squat, and forthwith they      drama of the suicide. If this line of verse be not yet in our
           trim their lanterns, confident of the ludicrous to come. So       literature,
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           8                                                                                                                     9

                      Through very love of self himself he slew,
               let it be admitted for his epitaph.




                                                                                           Chapter 1.
                                                                              A minor incident showing an hereditary aptitude
                                                                                           in the use of the knife.

                                                                       There was an ominously anxious watch of eyes visible and
                                                                   invisible over the infancy of Willoughby, fifth in descent from
                                                                   Simon Patterne, of Patterne Hall, premier of this family, a
                                                                   lawyer, a man of solid acquirements and stout ambition, who
                                                                   well understood the foundation-work of a House, and was
                                                                   endowed with the power of saying No to those first agents of
                                                                   destruction, besieging relatives. He said it with the resonant
                                                                   emphasis of death to younger sons. For if the oak is to become
                                                                   a stately tree, we must provide against the crowding of tim-
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                                                                   ber. Also the tree beset with parasites prospers not. A great
                                                                   House in its beginning lives, we may truly say, by the knife.
                                                                   Soil is easily got, and so are bricks, and a wife, and children
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           10                                                                                                                              11

           come of wishing for them, but the vigorous use of the knife is   himself at the ancestral Hall, when convenient to him, and he
           a natural gift and points to growth. Pauper Patternes were       was assured that he had given his relative and friend a taste
           numerous when the fifth head of the race was the hope of his     for a soldier’s life. Young Sir Willoughby was fond of talking
           county. A Patterne was in the Marines.                           of his “military namesake and distant cousin, young Patterne—
               The country and the chief of this family were simulta-       the Marine”. It was funny; and not less laughable was the
           neously informed of the existence of one Lieutenant Crossjay     description of his namesake’s deed of valour: with the rescued
           Patterne, of the corps of the famous hard fighters, through an   British sailor inebriate, and the hauling off to captivity of the
           act of heroism of the unpretending cool sort which kindles       three braves of the black dragon on a yellow ground, and the
           British blood, on the part of the modest young officer, in the   tying of them together back to back by their pigtails, and
           storming of some eastern riverain stronghold, somewhere about    driving of them into our lines upon a newly devised dying-
           the coast of China. The officer’s youth was assumed on the       top style of march that inclined to the oblique, like the aston-
           strength of his rank, perhaps likewise from the tale of his      ished six eyes of the celestial prisoners, for straight they could
           modesty: “he had only done his duty”. Our Willoughby was         not go. The humour of gentlemen at home is always highly
           then at College, emulous of the generous enthusiasm of his       excited by such cool feats. We are a small island, but you see
           years, and strangely impressed by the report, and the printing   what we do. The ladies at the Hall, Sir Willoughby’s mother,
           of his name in the newspapers. He thought over it for several    and his aunts Eleanor and Isabel, were more affected than he
           months, when, coming to his title and heritage, he sent Lieu-    by the circumstance of their having a Patterne in the Ma-
           tenant Crossjay Patterne a cheque for a sum of money amount-     rines. But how then! We English have ducal blood in busi-
           ing to the gallant fellow’s pay per annum, at the same time      ness: we have, genealogists tell us, royal blood in common
           showing his acquaintance with the first, or chemical, prin-      trades. For all our pride we are a queer people; and you may
           ciples of generosity, in the remark to friends at home, that     be ordering butcher’s meat of a Tudor, sitting on the cane-
           “blood is thicker than water”. The man is a Marine, but he is    bottom chairs of a Plantagenet. By and by you may . . . but
           a Patterne. How any Patterne should have drifted into the        cherish your reverence. Young Willoughby made a kind of
           Marines, is of the order of questions which are senselessly      shock-head or football hero of his gallant distant cousin, and
Contents




           asked of the great dispensary. In the complimentary letter       wondered occasionally that the fellow had been content to
           accompanying his cheque, the lieutenant was invited to present   dispatch a letter of effusive thanks without availing himself
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           12                                                                                                                                 13

           of the invitation to partake of the hospitalities of Patterne.       unseasonable fashion; and his acute instinct advised him
               He was one afternoon parading between showers on the             swiftly of the absurdity of introducing to his friends a heavy
           stately garden terrace of the Hall, in company with his affi-        unpresentable senior as the celebrated gallant Lieutenant of
           anced, the beautiful and dashing Constantia Durham, fol-             Marines, and the same as a member of his family! He had
           lowed by knots of ladies and gentlemen vowed to fresh air            talked of the man too much, too enthusiastically, to be able to
           before dinner, while it was to be had. Chancing with his usual       do so. A young subaltern, even if passably vulgar in figure,
           happy fortune (we call these things dealt to us out of the           can be shuffled through by the aid of the heroical story
           great hidden dispensary, chance) to glance up the avenue of          humourously exaggerated in apology for his aspect. Nothing
           limes, as he was in the act of turning on his heel at the end of     can be done with a mature and stumpy Marine of that rank.
           the terrace, and it should be added, discoursing with passion’s      Considerateness dismisses him on the spot, without parley. It
           privilege of the passion of love to Miss Durham, Sir                 was performed by a gentleman supremely advanced at a very
           Willoughby, who was anything but obtuse, experienced a               early age in the art of cutting.
           presentiment upon espying a thick-set stumpy man crossing                Young Sir Willoughby spoke a word of the rejected visitor
           the gravel space from the avenue to the front steps of the           to Miss Durham, in response to her startled look: “I shall
           Hall, decidedly not bearing the stamp of the gentleman “on           drop him a cheque,” he said, for she seemed personally
           his hat, his coat, his feet, or anything that was his,” Willoughby   wounded, and had a face of crimson.
           subsequently observed to the ladies of his family in the Scrip-          The young lady did not reply.
           tural style of gentlemen who do bear the stamp. His brief                Dating from the humble departure of Lieutenant Crossjay
           sketch of the creature was repulsive. The visitor carried a bag,     Patterne up the limes-avenue under a gathering rain-cloud,
           and his coat-collar was up, his hat was melancholy; he had           the ring of imps in attendance on Sir Willoughby maintained
           the appearance of a bankrupt tradesman absconding; no gloves,        their station with strict observation of his movements at all
           no umbrella.                                                         hours; and were comparisons in quest, the sympathetic eager-
               As to the incident we have to note, it was very slight. The      ness of the eyes of caged monkeys for the hand about to feed
           card of Lieutenant Patterne was handed to Sir Willoughby,            them, would supply one. They perceived in him a fresh de-
Contents




           who laid it on the salver, saying to the footman, “Not at home.”     velopment and very subtle manifestation of the very old thing
               He had been disappointed in the age, grossly deceived in         from which he had sprung.
           the appearance of the man claiming to be his relative in this
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           14                                                                                                                             15

                                                                            faces and characters awry into the currency. She was wealthy
                                                                            and kindly, and resembled our mother Nature in her reason-
                                                                            able antipathies to one or two things which none can defend,
                                                                            and her decided preference of persons that shone in the sun.
                                                                            Her word sprang out of her. She looked at you, and forth it
                                                                            came: and it stuck to you, as nothing laboured or literary
                                                                            could have adhered. Her saying of Laetitia Dale: “Here she
                                                                            comes with a romantic tale on her eyelashes,” was a portrait of
                                                                            Laetitia. And that of Vernon Whitford: “He is a Phoebus
                                                                            Apollo turned fasting friar,” painted the sunken brilliancy of
                                Chapter 2.                                  the lean long-walker and scholar at a stroke.
                                The young sir Willoughby.                       Of the young Sir Willoughby, her word was brief; and
                                                                            there was the merit of it on a day when he was hearing from
               These little scoundrel imps, who have attained to some       sunrise to the setting of the moon salutes in his honour, songs
           respectability as the dogs and pets of the Comic Spirit, had     of praise and Ciceronian eulogy. Rich, handsome, courteous,
           been curiously attentive three years earlier, long before the    generous, lord of the Hall, the feast and the dance, he excited
           public announcement of his engagement to the beautiful Miss      his guests of both sexes to a holiday of flattery. And, says
           Durham, on the day of Sir Willoughby’s majority, when Mrs.       Mrs. Mountstuart, while grand phrases were mouthing round
           Mountstuart Jenkinson said her word of him. Mrs.                 about him, “You see he has a leg.”
           Mountstuart was a lady certain to say the remembered, if not         That you saw, of course. But after she had spoken you saw
           the right, thing. Again and again was it confirmed on days of    much more. Mrs. Mountstuart said it just as others utter
           high celebration, days of birth or bridal, how sure she was to   empty nothings, with never a hint of a stress. Her word was
           hit the mark that rang the bell; and away her word went over     taken up, and very soon, from the extreme end of the long
                                                                            drawing-room, the circulation of something of Mrs.
Contents




           the county: and had she been an uncharitable woman she
           could have ruled the county with an iron rod of caricature, so   Mountstuart’s was distinctly perceptible. Lady Patterne sent
           sharp was her touch. A grain of malice would have sent county    a little Hebe down, skirting the dancers, for an accurate re-
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           16                                                                                                                                17

           port of it; and even the inappreciative lips of a very young       leg upward. That, however, is prosaic. Dwell a short space on
           lady transmitting the word could not damp the impression of        Mrs. Mountstuart’s word; and whither, into what fair region,
           its weighty truthfulness. It was perfect! Adulation of the young   and with how decorously voluptuous a sensation, do not we
           Sir Willoughby’s beauty and wit, and aristocratic bearing and      fly, who have, through mournful veneration of the Martyr
           mien, and of his moral virtues, was common; welcome if you         Charles, a coy attachment to the Court of his Merrie Son,
           like, as a form of homage; but common, almost vulgar, beside       where the leg was ribanded with love-knots and reigned. Oh!
           Mrs. Mountstuart’s quiet little touch of nature. In seeming        it was a naughty Court. Yet have we dreamed of it as the
           to say infinitely less than others, as Miss Isabel Patterne        period when an English cavalier was grace incarnate; far from
           pointed out to Lady Busshe, Mrs. Mountstuart comprised             the boor now hustling us in another sphere; beautifully man-
           all that the others had said, by showing the needlessness of       nered, every gesture dulcet. And if the ladies were . . . we will
           allusions to the saliently evident. She was the aristocrat re-     hope they have been traduced. But if they were, if they were
           proving the provincial. “He is everything you have had the         too tender, ah! gentlemen were gentlemen then—worth per-
           goodness to remark, ladies and dear sirs, he talks charmingly,     ishing for! There is this dream in the English country; and it
           dances divinely, rides with the air of a commander-in-chief,       must be an aspiration after some form of melodious
           has the most natural grand pose possible without ceasing for       gentlemanliness which is imagined to have inhabited the is-
           a moment to be the young English gentleman he is. Alcibiades,      land at one time; as among our poets the dream of the period
           fresh from a Louis IV perruquier, could not surpass him:           of a circle of chivalry here is encouraged for the pleasure of
           whatever you please; I could outdo you in sublime compari-         the imagination.
           sons, were I minded to pelt him. Have you noticed that he              Mrs. Mountstuart touched a thrilling chord. “In spite of
           has a leg?”                                                        men’s hateful modern costume, you see he has a leg.”
               So might it be amplified. A simple-seeming word of this            That is, the leg of the born cavalier is before you: and
           import is the triumph of the spiritual, and where it passes for    obscure it as you will, dress degenerately, there it is for ladies
           coin of value, the society has reached a high refinement:          who have eyes. You see it: or, you see he has it. Miss Isabel and
           Arcadian by the aesthetic route. Observation of Willoughby         Miss Eleanor disputed the incidence of the emphasis, but
Contents




           was not, as Miss Eleanor Patterne pointed out to Lady Culmer,      surely, though a slight difference of meaning may be heard,
           drawn down to the leg, but directed to estimate him from the       either will do: many, with a good show of reason, throw the
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           18                                                                                                                                  19

           accent upon leg. And the ladies knew for a fact that                the corps de ballet, draymen too, have legs, and staring legs,
           Willoughby’s leg was exquisite; he had a cavalier court-suit        shapely enough. But what are they? not the modulated in-
           in his wardrobe. Mrs. Mountstuart signified that the leg was        strument we mean—simply legs for leg-work, dumb as the
           to be seen because it was a burning leg. There it is, and it will   brutes. Our cavalier’s is the poetic leg, a portent, a valiance.
           shine through! He has the leg of Rochester, Buckingham,             He has it as Cicero had a tongue. It is a lute to scatter songs to
           Dorset, Suckling; the leg that smiles, that winks, is obsequi-      his mistress; a rapier, is she obdurate. In sooth a leg with brains
           ous to you, yet perforce of beauty self-satisfied; that twinkles    in it, soul.
           to a tender midway between imperiousness and seductive-                  And its shadows are an ambush, its lights a surprise. It
           ness, audacity and discretion; between “You shall worship me”,      blushes, it pales, can whisper, exclaim. It is a peep, a part
           and “I am devoted to you;” is your lord, your slave, alternately    revelation, just sufferable, of the Olympian god—Jove play-
           and in one. It is a leg of ebb and flow and high-tide ripples.      ing carpet-knight.
           Such a leg, when it has done with pretending to retire, will             For the young Sir Willoughby’s family and his thought-
           walk straight into the hearts of women. Nothing so fatal to         ful admirers, it is not too much to say that Mrs. Mountstuart’s
           them.                                                               little word fetched an epoch of our history to colour the evening
               Self-satisfied it must be. Humbleness does not win mul-         of his arrival at man’s estate. He was all that Merrie Charles’s
           titudes or the sex. It must be vain to have a sheen. Captivat-      court should have been, subtracting not a sparkle from what
           ing melodies (to prove to you the unavoidableness of self-          it was. Under this light he danced, and you may consider the
           satisfaction when you know that you have hit perfection),           effect of it on his company.
           listen to them closely, have an inner pipe of that conceit al-           He had received the domestic education of a prince. Little
           most ludicrous when you detect the chirp.                           princes abound in a land of heaped riches. Where they have
               And you need not be reminded that he has the leg with-          not to yield military service to an Imperial master, they are
           out the naughtiness. You see eminent in him what we would           necessarily here and there dainty during youth, sometimes
           fain have brought about in a nation that has lost its leg in        unmanageable, and as they are bound in no personal duty to
           gaining a possibly cleaner morality. And that is often con-         the State, each is for himself, with full present, and what is
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           tested; but there is no doubt of the loss of the leg.               more, luxurious, prospective leisure for the practice of that
               Well, footmen and courtiers and Scottish Highlanders, and       allegiance. They are sometimes enervated by it: that must be
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           in continental countries. Happily our climate and our brave        that it is easier to be a wooden idol than one in the flesh; yet
           blood precipitate the greater number upon the hunting-field,       Willoughby was equal to his task. The little prince’s educa-
           to do the public service of heading the chase of the fox, with     tion teaches him that he is other than you, and by virtue of
           benefit to their constitutions. Hence a manly as well as useful    the instruction he receives, and also something, we know not
           race of little princes, and Willoughby was as manly as any.        what, within, he is enabled to maintain his posture where you
           He cultivated himself, he would not be outdone in popular          would be tottering.
           accomplishments. Had the standard of the public taste been             Urchins upon whose curly pates grave seniors lay their
           set in philosophy, and the national enthusiasm centred in          hands with conventional encomium and speculation, look older
           philosophers, he would at least have worked at books. He did       than they are immediately, and Willoughby looked older than
           work at science, and had a laboratory. His admirable passion       his years, not for want of freshness, but because he felt that he
           to excel, however, was chiefly directed in his youth upon sport;   had to stand eminently and correctly poised.
           and so great was the passion in him, that it was commonly the          Hearing of Mrs. Mountstuart’s word on him, he smiled
           presence of rivals which led him to the declaration of love.       and said, “It is at her service.”
               He knew himself, nevertheless, to be the most constant of          The speech was communicated to her, and she proposed
           men in his attachment to the sex. He had never discouraged         to attach a dedicatory strip of silk. And then they came to-
           Laetitia Dale’s devotion to him, and even when he followed         gether, and there was wit and repartee suitable to the electri-
           in the sweeping tide of the beautiful Constantia Durham            cal atmosphere of the dancing-room, on the march to a magi-
           (whom Mrs. Mountstuart called “The Racing Cutter”), he             cal hall of supper. Willoughby conducted Mrs. Mountstuart
           thought of Laetitia, and looked at her. She was a shy violet.      to the supper-table.
               Willoughby’s comportment while the showers of adula-               “Were I,” said she, “twenty years younger, I think I would
           tion drenched him might be likened to the composure of In-         marry you, to cure my infatuation.”
           dian Gods undergoing worship, but unlike them he reposed               “Then let me tell you in advance, madam,” said he, “that I
           upon no seat of amplitude to preserve him from a betrayal of       will do everything to obtain a new lease of it, except divorce
           intoxication; he had to continue tripping, dancing, exactly        you.”
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           balancing himself, head to right, head to left, addressing his         They were infinitely wittier, but so much was heard and
           idolaters in phrases of perfect choiceness. This is only to say    may he reported.
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              “It makes the business of choosing a wife for him super-
           humanly difficult!” Mrs. Mountstuart observed, after listen-
           ing to the praises she had set going again when the ladies were
           weeded of us, in Lady Patterne’s Indian room, and could con-
           verse unhampered upon their own ethereal themes.
              “Willoughby will choose a wife for himself,” said his
           mother.




                                                                                                     Chapter 3.
                                                                                                        Constantia durham.

                                                                                 The great question for the county was debated in many
                                                                             households, daughter-thronged and daughterless, long sub-
                                                                             sequent to the memorable day of Willoughby’s coming of
                                                                             age. Lady Busshe was for Constantia Durham. She laughed
                                                                             at Mrs Mountstuart Jenkinson’s notion of Laetitia Dale. She
                                                                             was a little older than Mrs. Mountstuart, and had known
                                                                             Willoughby’s father, whose marriage into the wealthiest
                                                                             branch of the Whitford family had been strictly sagacious.
                                                                             “Patternes marry money; they are not romantic people,” she
                                                                             said. Miss Durham had money, and she had health and beauty:
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                                                                             three mighty qualifications for a Patterne bride. Her father,
                                                                             Sir John Durham, was a large landowner in the western divi-
                                                                             sion of the county; a pompous gentleman, the picture of a
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           24                                                                                                                                25

           father-in-law for Willoughby. The father of Miss Dale was a        the happy similes he poured out to Miss Durham across the
           battered army surgeon from India, tenant of one of Sir             lines of Sir Roger de Coverley, and they were not forgotten,
           Willoughby’s cottages bordering Patterne Park. His girl was        they procured him a reputation as a convivial sparkler. Rumour
           portionless and a poetess. Her writing of the song in celebra-     went the round that he intended to give Laetitia to Vernon
           tion of the young baronet’s birthday was thought a clever          for good, when he could decide to take Miss Durham to him-
           venture, bold as only your timid creatures can be bold. She let    self; his generosity was famous; but that decision, though the
           the cat out of her bag of verse before the multitude; she al-      rope was in the form of a knot, seemed reluctant for the con-
           most proposed to her hero in her rhymes. She was pretty; her       clusive close haul; it preferred the state of slackness; and if he
           eyelashes were long and dark, her eyes dark-blue, and her soul     courted Laetitia on behalf of his cousin, his cousinly love must
           was ready to shoot like a rocket out of them at a look from        have been greater than his passion, one had to suppose. He
           Willoughby. And he looked, he certainly looked, though he          was generous enough for it, or for marrying the portionless
           did not dance with her once that night, and danced repeat-         girl himself.
           edly with Miss Durham. He gave Laetitia to Vernon                      There was a story of a brilliant young widow of our aris-
           Whitford for the final dance of the night, and he may have         tocracy who had very nearly snared him. Why should he ob-
           looked at her so much in pity of an elegant girl allied to such    ject to marry into our aristocracy? Mrs. Mountstuart asked
           a partner. The “Phoebus Apollo turned fasting friar” had en-       him, and he replied that the girls of that class have no money,
           tirely forgotten his musical gifts in motion. He crossed him-      and he doubted the quality of their blood. He had his eyes
           self and crossed his bewildered lady, and crossed everybody in     awake. His duty to his House was a foremost thought with
           the figure, extorting shouts of cordial laughter from his cousin   him, and for such a reason he may have been more anxious to
           Willoughby. Be it said that the hour was four in the morn-         give the slim and not robust Laetitia to Vernon than accede
           ing, when dancers must laugh at somebody, if only to refresh       to his personal inclination. The mention of the widow singu-
           their feet, and the wit of the hour administers to the wildest     larly offended him, notwithstanding the high rank of the lady
           laughter. Vernon was likened to Theseus in the maze, entirely      named. “A widow?” he said. “I!” He spoke to a widow; an
           dependent upon his Ariadne; to a fly released from a jam-          oldish one truly; but his wrath at the suggestion of his union
Contents




           pot; to a “salvage”, or green, man caught in a web of nymphs       with a widow led him to be for the moment oblivious of the
           and made to go the paces. Willoughby was inexhaustible in          minor shades of good taste. He desired Mrs. Mountstuart to
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           26                                                                                                                              27

           contradict the story in positive terms. He repeated his desire;   commoners, of the slings and arrows assailing fortune’s most
           he was urgent to have it contradicted, and said again, “A         favoured men, that we may preach contentment to the wretch
           widow!” straightening his whole figure to the erectness of the    who cannot muster wherewithal to marry a wife, or has done
           letter I. She was a widow unmarried a second time, and it has     it and trots the streets, pack-laden, to maintain the dame and
           been known of the stedfast women who retain the name of           troops of children painfully reared to fill subordinate sta-
           their first husband, or do not hamper his title with a little     tions. According to our reading, a moral is always welcome in
           new squire at their skirts, that they can partially approve the   a moral country, and especially so when silly envy is to be
           objections indicated by Sir Willoughby. They are thinking of      chastised by it, the restless craving for change rebuked. Young
           themselves when they do so, and they will rarely say, “I might    Sir Willoughby, then, stood in this dilemma:—a lady was at
           have married;” rarely within them will they avow that, with       either hand of him; the only two that had ever, apart from
           their permission, it might have been. They can catch an idea      metropolitan conquests, not to be recited, touched his emo-
           of a gentleman’s view of the widow’s cap. But a niceness that     tions. Susceptible to beauty, he had never seen so beautiful a
           could feel sharply wounded by the simple rumour of his alli-      girl as Constantia Durham. Equally susceptible to admira-
           ance with the young relict of an earl was mystifying. Sir         tion of himself, he considered Laetitia Dale a paragon of clev-
           Willoughby unbent. His military letter I took a careless glance   erness. He stood between the queenly rose and the modest
           at itself lounging idly and proudly at ease in the glass of his   violet. One he bowed to; the other bowed to him. He could
           mind, decked with a wanton wreath, as he dropped a hint,          not have both; it is the law governing princes and pedestrians
           generously vague, just to show the origin of the rumour, and      alike. But which could he forfeit? His growing acquaintance
           the excellent basis it had for not being credited. He was chid-   with the world taught him to put an increasing price on the
           den. Mrs. Mountstuart read him a lecture. She was however         sentiments of Miss Dale. Still Constantia’s beauty was of a
           able to contradict the tale of the young countess. “There is no   kind to send away beholders aching. She had the glory of the
           fear of his marrying her, my dears.”                              racing cutter full sail on a whining breeze; and she did not
               Meanwhile there was a fear that he would lose his chance      court to win him, she flew. In his more reflective hour the
           of marrying the beautiful Miss Durham.                            attractiveness of that lady which held the mirror to his fea-
Contents




               The dilemmas of little princes are often grave. They should   tures was paramount. But he had passionate snatches when
           be dwelt on now and then for an example to poor struggling        the magnetism of the flyer drew him in her wake. Further to
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           28                                                                                                                                  29

           add to the complexity, he loved his liberty; he was princelier        thought as little of Captain Oxford as he did of Vernon
           free; he had more subjects, more slaves; he ruled arrogantly in       Whitford. His enemy was the world, the mass, which con-
           the world of women; he was more himself. His metropolitan             founds us in a lump, which has breathed on her whom we
           experiences did not answer to his liking the particular ques-         have selected, whom we cannot, can never, rub quite clear of
           tion, Do we bind the woman down to us idolatrously by mak-            her contact with the abominated crowd. The pleasure of the
           ing a wife of her?                                                    world is to bowl down our soldierly letter I; to encroach on
               In the midst of his deliberations, a report of the hot pur-       our identity, soil our niceness. To begin to think is the begin-
           suit of Miss Durham, casually mentioned to him by Lady                ning of disgust of the world.
           Busshe, drew an immediate proposal from Sir Willoughby.                   As soon the engagement was published all the county said
           She accepted him, and they were engaged. She had been                 that there had not been a chance for Laetitia, and Mrs.
           nibbled at, all but eaten up, while he hung dubitative; and           Mountstuart Jenkinson humbly remarked, in an attitude of
           though that was the cause of his winning her, it offended his         penitence, “I’m not a witch.” Lady Busshe could claim to be
           niceness. She had not come to him out of cloistral purity, out        one; she had foretold the event. Laetitia was of the same opin-
           of perfect radiancy. Spiritually, likewise, was he a little prince,   ion as the county. She had looked up, but not hopefully. She
           a despotic prince. He wished for her to have come to him out          had only looked up to the brightest, and, as he was the high-
           of an egg-shell, somewhat more astonished at things than a            est, how could she have hoped? She was the solitary compan-
           chicken, but as completely enclosed before he tapped the shell,       ion of a sick father, whose inveterate prognostic of her, that
           and seeing him with her sex’s eyes first of all men. She talked       she would live to rule at Patterne Hall, tortured the poor girl
           frankly of her cousins and friends, young males. She could            in proportion as he seemed to derive comfort from it. The
           have replied to his bitter wish: “Had you asked me on the             noise of the engagement merely silenced him; recluse invalids
           night of your twenty-first birthday, Willoughby!” Since then          cling obstinately to their ideas. He had observed Sir
           she had been in the dust of the world, and he conceived his           Willoughby in the society of his daughter, when the young
           peculiar antipathy, destined to be so fatal to him, from the          baronet revived to a sprightly boyishness immediately. In-
           earlier hours of his engagement. He was quaintly incapable of         deed, as big boy and little girl, they had played together of
Contents




           a jealousy of individuals. A young Captain Oxford had been            old. Willoughby had been a handsome, fair boy. The portrait
           foremost in the swarm pursuing Constantia. Willoughby                 of him at the Hall, in a hat, leaning on his pony, with crossed
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           30                                                                                                                               31

           legs, and long flaxen curls over his shoulders, was the image of   enchanting romance, when Sir Willoughby met her on a Sun-
           her soul’s most present angel; and, as a man, he had—she did       day morning, as she crossed his park solitarily to church. They
           not suppose intentionally—subjected her nature to bow to           were within ten days of the appointed ceremony. He should
           him; so submissive was she, that it was fuller happiness for       have been away at Miss Durham’s end of the county. He had,
           her to think him right in all his actions than to imagine the      Laetitia knew, ridden over to her the day before; but there he
           circumstances different. This may appear to resemble the ec-       was; and very unwontedly, quite surprisingly, he presented
           stasy of the devotee of Juggernaut, It is a form of the passion    his arm to conduct Laetitia to the church-door, and talked
           inspired by little princes, and we need not marvel that a con-     and laughed in a way that reminded her of a hunting gentle-
           servative sex should assist to keep them in their lofty places.    man she had seen once rising to his feet, staggering from an
           What were there otherwise to look up to? We should have no         ugly fall across hedge and fence into one of the lanes of her
           dazzling beacon-lights if they were levelled and treated as        short winter walks. “All’s well, all sound, never better, only a
           clod earth; and it is worth while for here and there a woman       scratch!” the gentleman had said, as he reeled and pressed a
           to be burned, so long as women’s general adoration of an ideal     bleeding head. Sir Willoughby chattered of his felicity in
           young man shall be preserved. Purity is our demand of them.        meeting her. “I am really wonderfully lucky,” he said, and he
           They may justly cry for attraction. They cannot have it brighter   said that and other things over and over, incessantly talking,
           than in the universal bearing of the eyes of their sisters upon    and telling an anecdote of county occurrences, and laughing
           a little prince, one who has the ostensible virtues in his pay,    at it with a mouth that would not widen. He went on talking
           and can practise them without injuring himself to make him-        in the church porch, and murmuring softly some steps up the
           self unsightly. Let the races of men be by-and-by astonished       aisle, passing the pews of Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson and
           at their Gods, if they please. Meantime they had better con-       Lady Busshe. Of course he was entertaining, but what a
           tinue to worship.                                                  strangeness it was to Laetitia! His face would have been half
               Laetitia did continue. She saw Miss Durham at Patterne         under an antique bonnet. It came very close to hers, and the
           on several occasions. She admired the pair. She had a wish to      scrutiny he bent on her was most solicitous.
           witness the bridal ceremony. She was looking forward to the            After the service, he avoided the great ladies by sauntering
Contents




           day with that mixture of eagerness and withholding which           up to within a yard or two of where she sat; he craved her
           we have as we draw nigh the disenchanting termination of an        hand on his arm to lead her forth by the park entrance to the
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           32                                                                                                                              33

           church, all the while bending to her, discoursing rapidly, ap-    well excuse him, after her hearing of the tale.
           pearing radiantly interested in her quiet replies, with fits of       It was a lamentable tale. He had ridden to Sir John
           intentness that stared itself out into dim abstraction. She       Durham’s mansion, a distance of thirty miles, to hear, on his
           hazarded the briefest replies for fear of not having under-       arrival, that Constantia had quitted her father’s house two
           stood him.                                                        days previously on a visit to an aunt in London, and had just
               One question she asked: “Miss Durham is well, I trust?”       sent word that she was the wife of Captain Oxford, hussar,
               And he answered “Durham?” and said, “There is no Miss         and messmate of one of her brothers. A letter from the bride
           Durham to my knowledge.”                                          awaited Willoughby at the Hall. He had ridden back at night,
               The impression he left with her was, that he might yester-    not caring how he used his horse in order to get swiftly home,
           day during his ride have had an accident and fallen on his        so forgetful of himself was he under the terrible blow. That
           head.                                                             was the night of Saturday. On the day following, being Sun-
               She would have asked that, if she had not known him for       day, he met Laetitia in his park, led her to church, led her out
           so thorough an Englishman, in his dislike to have it thought      of it, and the day after that, previous to his disappearance for
           that accidents could hurt even when they happened to him.         some weeks, was walking with her in full view of the carriages
               He called the next day to claim her for a walk. He assured    along the road.
           her she had promised it, and he appealed to her father, who           He had, indeed, you see, been very fortunately, if not con-
           could not testify to a promise he had not heard, but begged       siderately, liberated by Miss Durham. He, as a man of honour,
           her to leave him to have her walk. So once more she was in the    could not have taken the initiative, but the frenzy of a jealous
           park with Sir Willoughby, listening to his raptures over old      girl might urge her to such a course; and how little he suf-
           days. A word of assent from her sufficed him. “I am now           fered from it had been shown to the world. Miss Durham,
           myself,” was one of the remarks he repeated this day. She         the story went, was his mother’s choice for him against his
           dilated on the beauty of the park and the Hall to gratify him.    heart’s inclinations; which had finally subdued Lady Patterne.
               He did not speak of Miss Durham, and Laetitia became          Consequently, there was no longer an obstacle between Sir
           afraid to mention her name.                                       Willoughby and Miss Dale. It was a pleasant and romantic
Contents




               At their parting, Willoughby promised Laetitia that he        story, and it put most people in good humour with the county’s
           would call on the morrow. He did not come; and she could          favourite, as his choice of a portionless girl of no position
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           34                                                                                                                                35

           would not have done without the shock of astonishment at
           the conduct of Miss Durham, and the desire to feel that so
           prevailing a gentleman was not in any degree pitiable.
           Constantia was called “that mad thing”. Laetitia broke forth
           in novel and abundant merits; and one of the chief points of
           requisition in relation to Patterne—a Lady Willoughby who
           would entertain well and animate the deadness of the Hall,
           became a certainty when her gentleness and liveliness and
           exceeding cleverness were considered. She was often a visitor
           at the Hall by Lady Patterne’s express invitation, and some-
           times on these occasions Willoughby was there too, superin-                                 Chapter 4.
           tending the filling up of his laboratory, though he was not at                                     Laetitia Dale.
           home to the county; it was not expected that he should be
           yet. He had taken heartily to the pursuit of science, and spoke         That was another surprise to the county.
           of little else. Science, he said, was in our days the sole object       Let us not inquire into the feelings of patiently starving
           worth a devoted pursuit. But the sweeping remark could hardly       women; they must obtain some sustenance of their own, since,
           apply to Laetitia, of whom he was the courteous, quiet wooer        as you perceive, they live; evidently they are not in need of a
           you behold when a man has broken loose from an unhappy              great amount of nourishment; and we may set them down for
           tangle to return to the lady of his first and strongest affec-      creatures with a rush-light of animal fire to warm them. They
           tions.                                                              cannot have much vitality who are so little exclamatory. A
               Some months of homely courtship ensued, and then, the           corresponding sentiment of patient compassion, akin to scorn,
           decent interval prescribed by the situation having elapsed, Sir     is provoked by persons having the opportunity for pathos,
           Willoughby Patterne left his native land on a tour of the           and declining to use it. The public bosom was open to Laetitia
           globe.
Contents




                                                                               for several weeks, and had she run to it to bewail herself she
                                                                               would have been cherished in thankfulness for a country
                                                                               drama. There would have been a party against her, cold people,
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           critical of her pretensions to rise from an unrecognized sphere    cratic cousins”, he said. Such cousins! They might all have
           to be mistress of Patterne Hall, but there would also have         been in the Marines. He carried his English standard over
           been a party against Sir Willoughby, composed of the two or        that continent, and by simply jotting down facts, he left an
           three revolutionists, tired of the yoke, which are to be found     idea of the results of the measurement to his family and friends
           in England when there is a stir; a larger number of born           at home. He was an adept in the irony of incongruously group-
           sympathetics, ever ready to yield the tear for the tear; and       ing. The nature of the Equality under the stars and stripes
           here and there a Samaritan soul prompt to succour poor hu-         was presented in this manner. Equality! Reflections came oc-
           manity in distress. The opportunity passed undramatized.           casionally: “These cousins of ours are highly amusing. I am
           Laetitia presented herself at church with a face mildly de-        among the descendants of the Roundheads. Now and then an
           vout, according to her custom, and she accepted invitations to     allusion to old domestic differences, in perfect good temper.
           the Hall, she assisted at the reading of Willoughby’s letters to   We go on in our way; they theirs, in the apparent belief that
           his family, and fed on dry husks of him wherein her name           Republicanism operates remarkable changes in human na-
           was not mentioned; never one note of the summoning call for        ture. Vernon tries hard to think it does. The upper ten of our
           pathos did this young lady blow.                                   cousins are the Infernal of Paris. The rest of them is Radical
               So, very soon the public bosom closed. She had, under the      England, as far as I am acquainted with that section of my
           fresh interpretation of affairs, too small a spirit to be Lady     country.”—Where we compared, they were absurd; where we
           Willoughby of Patterne; she could not have entertained be-         contrasted, they were monstrous. The contrast of Vernon’s
           comingly; he must have seen that the girl was not the match        letters with Willoughby’s was just as extreme. You could
           for him in station, and off he went to conquer the remainder       hardly have taken them for relatives travelling together, or
           of a troublesome first attachment, no longer extremely dis-        Vernon Whitford for a born and bred Englishman. The same
           turbing, to judge from the tenour of his letters; really incom-    scenes furnished by these two pens might have been sketched
           parable letters! Lady Busshe and Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson        in different hemispheres. Vernon had no irony. He had noth-
           enjoyed a perusal of them. Sir Willoughby appeared as a splen-     ing of Willoughby’s epistolary creative power, which, causing
           did young representative island lord in these letters to his       his family and friends to exclaim: “How like him that is!”
Contents




           family, despatched from the principal cities of the United         conjured them across the broad Atlantic to behold and clap
           States of America. He would give them a sketch of “our demo-       hands at his lordliness.
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               They saw him distinctly, as with the naked eye; a word, a     interjections, placable flicks of the lionly tail addressed to
           turn of the pen, or a word unsaid, offered the picture of him     Britannia the Ruler, who expected him in some mildish way
           in America, Japan, China, Australia, nay, the continent of        to lash terga cauda in retiring, Sir Willoughby Patterne passed
           Europe, holding an English review of his Maker’s grotesques.      from a land of alien manners; and ever after he spoke of
           Vernon seemed a sheepish fellow, without stature abroad, glad     America respectfully and pensively, with a tail tucked in, as it
           of a compliment, grateful for a dinner, endeavouring sadly to     were. His travels were profitable to himself. The fact is, that
           digest all he saw and heard. But one was a Patterne; the other    there are cousins who come to greatness and must be pacified,
           a Whitford. One had genius; the other pottered after him          or they will prove annoying. Heaven forefend a collision be-
           with the title of student. One was the English gentleman          tween cousins!
           wherever he went; the other was a new kind of thing, nonde-           Willoughby returned to his England after an absence of
           script, produced in England of late, and not likely to come to    three years. On a fair April morning, the last of the month, he
           much good himself, or do much good to the country.                drove along his park palings, and, by the luck of things, Laetitia
               Vernon’s dancing in America was capitally described by        was the first of his friends whom he met. She was crossing
           Willoughby. “Adieu to our cousins!” the latter wrote on his       from field to field with a band of school-children, gathering
           voyage to Japan. “I may possibly have had some vogue in their     wild flowers for the morrow May-day. He sprang to the
           ball-rooms, and in showing them an English seat on horse-         ground and seized her hand. “Laetitia Dale!” he said. He
           back: I must resign myself if I have not been popular among       panted. “Your name is sweet English music! And you are well?”
           them. I could not sing their national song—if a congery of        The anxious question permitted him to read deeply in her
           states be a nation—and I must confess I listened with frigid      eyes. He found the man he sought there, squeezed him pas-
           politeness to their singing of it. A great people, no doubt.      sionately, and let her go, saying: “I could not have prayed for
           Adieu to them. I have had to tear old Vernon away. He had         a lovelier home-scene to welcome me than you and these chil-
           serious thoughts of settling, means to correspond with some       dren flower-gathering. I don’t believe in chance. It was de-
           of them.” On the whole, forgetting two or more “traits of         creed that we should meet. Do not you think so?”
           insolence” on the part of his hosts, which he cited, Willoughby       Laetitia breathed faintly of her gladness.
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           escaped pretty comfortably. The President had been, con-              He begged her to distribute a gold coin among the little
           sciously or not, uncivil, but one knew his origin! Upon these     ones; asked for the names of some of them, and repeated:
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           “Mary, Susan, Charlotte—only the Christian names, pray!            derment to the behaviour of Constantia Durham. That was
           Well, my dears, you will bring your garlands to the Hall to-       Laetitia’s manner of taking up her weakness once more. She
           morrow morning; and mind, early! no slugabeds tomorrow; I          could almost have reviled the woman who had given this be-
           suppose I am browned, Laetitia?” He smiled in apology for          neficent magician, this pathetic exile, of the aristocratic sun-
           the foreign sun, and murmured with rapture: “The green of          burned visage and deeply scrutinizing eyes, cause for grief.
           this English country is unsurpassed. It is wonderful. Leave        How deeply his eyes could read! The starveling of patience
           England and be baked, if you would appreciate it. You can’t,       awoke to the idea of a feast. The sense of hunger came with it,
           unless you taste exile as I have done—for how many years?          and hope came, and patience fled. She would have rejected
           How many?”                                                         hope to keep patience nigh her; but surely it can not always
              “Three,” said Laetitia.                                         be Winter! said her reasoning blood, and we must excuse her
              “Thirty!” said he. “It seems to me that length. At least, I     as best we can if she was assured, by her restored warmth that
           am immensely older. But looking at you, I could think it less      Willoughby came in the order of the revolving seasons, mark-
           than three. You have not changed. You are absolutely un-           ing a long Winter past. He had specially to speak with her
           changed. I am bound to hope so. I shall see you soon. I have       father, he had said. What could that mean? What, but—She
           much to talk of, much to tell you. I shall hasten to call on       dared not phrase it or view it.
           your father. I have specially to speak with him. I—what hap-           At their next meeting she was “Miss Dale”.
           piness this is, Laetitia! But I must not forget I have a mother.       A week later he was closeted with her father.
           Adieu; for some hours—not for many!”                                   Mr. Dale, in the evening of that pregnant day, eulogized
              He pressed her hand again. He was gone.                         Sir Willoughby as a landlord. A new lease of the cottage was
              She dismissed the children to their homes. Plucking prim-       to be granted him on the old terms, he said. Except that Sir
           roses was hard labour now—a dusty business. She could have         Willoughby had congratulated him in the possession of an
           wished that her planet had not descended to earth, his pres-       excellent daughter, their interview was one of landlord and
           ence agitated her so; but his enthusiastic patriotism was like a   tenant, it appeared; and Laetitia said, “So we shall not have to
           shower that, in the Spring season of the year, sweeps against      leave the cottage?” in a tone of satisfaction, while she quietly
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           the hard-binding East and melts the air and brings out new         gave a wrench to the neck of the young hope in her breast. At
           colours, makes life flow; and her thoughts recurred in won-        night her diary received the line: “This day I was a fool. To-
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           42                                                                                                                              43

           morrow?”                                                          managing them, he said; and very amusing was his descrip-
               To-morrow and many days afterwards there were dashes          tion of his cousin’s shifts to live by literature, and add enough
           instead of words.                                                 to a beggarly income to get his usual two months of the year
               Patience travelled back to her sullenly. As we must have      in the Alps. Previous to his great tour, Willoughby had spo-
           some kind of food, and she had nothing else, she took to that     ken of Vernon’s judgement with derision; nor was it entirely
           and found it dryer than of yore. It is a composing but a lean     unknown that Vernon had offended his family pride by some
           dietary. The dead are patient, and we get a certain likeness to   extravagant act. But after their return he acknowledged
           them in feeding on it unintermittingly overlong. Her hol-         Vernon’s talents, and seemed unable to do without him.
           lowed cheeks with the fallen leaf in them pleaded against             The new arrangement gave Laetitia a companion for her
           herself to justify her idol for not looking down on one like      walks. Pedestrianism was a sour business to Willoughby, whose
           her. She saw him when he was at the Hall. He did not notice       exclamation of the word indicated a willingness for any amount
           any change. He was exceedingly gentle and courteous. More         of exercise on horseback; but she had no horse, and so, while
           than once she discovered his eyes dwelling on her, and then       he hunted, Laetitia and Vernon walked, and the
           he looked hurriedly at his mother, and Laetitia had to shut       neighbourhood speculated on the circumstances, until the
           her mind from thinking, lest thinking should be a sin and         ladies Eleanor and Isabel Patterne engaged her more frequently
           hope a guilty spectre. But had his mother objected to her?        for carriage exercise, and Sir Willoughby was observed riding
           She could not avoid asking herself. His tour of the globe had     beside them.
           been undertaken at his mother’s desire; she was an ambitious          A real and sunny pleasure befell Laetitia in the establish-
           lady, in failing health; and she wished to have him living with   ment of young Crossjay Patterne under her roof; the son of
           her at Patterne, yet seemed to agree that he did wisely to        the lieutenant, now captain, of Marines; a boy of twelve with
           reside in London.                                                 the sprights of twelve boys in him, for whose board and lodge-
               One day Sir Willoughby, in the quiet manner which was         ment Vernon provided by arrangement with her father. Vernon
           his humour, informed her that he had become a country gentle-     was one of your men that have no occupation for their money,
           man; he had abandoned London, he loathed it as the burial-        no bills to pay for repair of their property, and are insane to
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           place of the individual man. He intended to sit down on his       spend. He had heard of Captain Patterne’s large family, and
           estates and have his cousin Vernon Whitford to assist him in      proposed to have his eldest boy at the Hall, to teach him; but
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           44                                                                                                                                45

           Willoughby declined to house the son of such a father, pre-        hour for instruction, to be plucked out of the earth, rank of
           dicting that the boy’s hair would be red, his skin eruptive,       the soil, like a root, for the exercise of his big round headpiece
           and his practices detestable. So Vernon, having obtained Mr.       on those tyrannous puzzles. But the habits of birds, and the
           Dale’s consent to accommodate this youth, stalked off to           place for their eggs, and the management of rabbits, and the
           Devonport, and brought back a rosy-cheeked, round-bodied           tickling of fish, and poaching joys with combative boys of the
           rogue of a boy, who fell upon meats and puddings, and de-          district, and how to wheedle a cook for a luncheon for a whole
           feated them, with a captivating simplicity in his confession       day in the rain, he soon knew of his great nature. His passion
           that he had never had enough to eat in his life. He had gone       for our naval service was a means of screwing his attention to
           through a training for a plentiful table. At first, after a num-   lessons after he had begun to understand that the desert had
           ber of helps, young Crossjay would sit and sigh heavily, in        to be traversed to attain midshipman’s rank. He boasted ar-
           contemplation of the unfinished dish. Subsequently, he told        dently of his fighting father, and, chancing to be near the
           his host and hostess that he had two sisters above his own age,    Hall as he was talking to Vernon and Laetitia of his father, he
           and three brothers and two sisters younger than he: “All hun-      propounded a question close to his heart, and he put it in
           gry!” said die boy.                                                these words, following: “My father’s the one to lead an army!”
               His pathos was most comical. It was a good month before        when he paused. “I say, Mr. Whitford, Sir Willoughby’s kind
           he could see pudding taken away from table without a sigh of       to me, and gives me crown-pieces, why wouldn’t he see my
           regret that he could not finish it as deputy for the Devonport     father, and my father came here ten miles in the rain to see
           household. The pranks of the little fellow, and his revel in a     him, and had to walk ten miles back, and sleep at an inn?”
           country life, and muddy wildness in it, amused Laetitia from           The only answer to be given was, that Sir Willoughby
           morning to night. She, when she had caught him, taught him         could not have been at home. “Oh! my father saw him, and
           in the morning; Vernon, favoured by the chase, in the after-       Sir Willoughby said he was not at home,” the boy replied,
           noon. Young Crossjay would have enlivened any household.           producing an odd ring in the ear by his repetition of “not at
           He was not only indolent, he was opposed to the acquisition        home” in the same voice as the apology, plainly innocent of
           of knowledge through the medium of books, and would say:           malice. Vernon told Laetitia, however, that the boy never asked
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           “But I don’t want to!” in a tone to make a logician thoughtful.    an explanation of Sir Willoughby.
           Nature was very strong in him. He had, on each return of the           Unlike the horse of the adage, it was easier to compel young
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           46                                                                                                                                   47

           Crossjay to drink of the waters of instruction than to get him         we are robbed of. Then begins with us the term of wilful
           to the brink. His heart was not so antagonistic as his nature,         delusion, and its necessary accompaniment of the disgust of
           and by degrees, owing to a proper mixture of discipline and            reality; exhausting the heart much more than patient endur-
           cajolery, he imbibed. He was whistling at the cook’s windows           ance of starvation.
           after a day of wicked truancy, on an April night, and reported              Hints were dropping about the neighbourhood; the
           adventures over the supper supplied to him. Laetitia entered           hedgeways twittered, the tree-tops cawed. Mrs. Mountstuart
           the kitchen with a reproving forefinger. He jumped to kiss             Jenkinson was loud on the subject: “Patterne is to have a mis-
           her, and went on chattering of a place fifteen miles distant,          tress at last, you say? But there never was a doubt of his mar-
           where he had seen Sir Willoughby riding with a young lady.             rying—he must marry; and, so long as he does not marry a
           The impossibility that the boy should have got so far on foot          foreign woman, we have no cause to complain. He met her at
           made Laetitia doubtful of his veracity, until she heard that a         Cherriton. Both were struck at the same moment. Her father
           gentleman had taken him up on the road in a gig, and had               is, I hear, some sort of learned man; money; no land. No house
           driven him to a farm to show him strings of birds’ eggs and            either, I believe. People who spend half their time on the
           stuffed birds of every English kind, kingfishers, yaffles, black       Continent. They are now for a year at Upton Park. The very
           woodpeckers, goat-sucker owls, more mouth than head, with              girl to settle down and entertain when she does think of set-
           dusty, dark-spotted wings, like moths; all very circumstantial.        tling. Eighteen, perfect manners; you need not ask if a beauty.
           Still, in spite of his tea at the farm, and ride back by rail at the   Sir Willoughby will have his dues. We must teach her to
           gentleman’s expense, the tale seemed fictitious to Laetitia until      make amends to him—but don’t listen to Lady Busshe! He
           Crossjay related how that he had stood to salute on the road           was too young at twenty-three or twenty-four. No young man
           to the railway, and taken off his cap to Sir Willoughby, and           is ever jilted; he is allowed to escape. A young man married is
           Sir Willoughby had passed him, not noticing him, though                a fire-eater bound over to keep the peace; if he keeps it he
           the young lady did, and looked back and nodded. The hue of             worries it. At thirty-one or thirty-two he is ripe for his com-
           truth was in that picture.                                             mand, because he knows how to bend. And Sir Willoughby
               Strange eclipse, when the hue of truth comes shadowing             is a splendid creature, only wanting a wife to complete him.
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           over our bright ideal planet. It will not seem the planet’s fault,     For a man like that to go on running about would never do.
           but truth’s. Reality is the offender; delusion our treasure that       Soberly—no! It would soon be getting ridiculous. He has
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           48                                                                                                                                  49

           been no worse than other men, probably better—infinitely              beauties as the colours of the sky; and if, at the same time,
           more excusable; but now we have him, and it was time we               elegant and of loveable smiling, could a man resist her? To
           should. I shall see her and study her, sharply, you may be            inspire the title of Mountain Echo in any mind, a young lady
           sure; though I fancy I can rely on his judgement.”                    must be singularly spiritualized. Her father doated on her,
               In confirmation of the swelling buzz, the Rev. Dr.                Vernon said. Who would not? It seemed an additional cru-
           Middleton and his daughter paid a flying visit to the Hall,           elty that the grace of a poetical attractiveness should be round
           where they were seen only by the members of the Patterne              her, for this was robbing Laetitia of some of her own little
           family. Young Crossjay had a short conversation with Miss             fortune, mystical though that might be. But a man like Sir
           Middleton, and ran to the cottage full of her—she loved the           Willoughby had claims on poetry, possessing as he did every
           navy and had a merry face. She had a smile of very pleasant           manly grace; and to think that Miss Middleton had won him
           humour according to Vernon. The young lady was outlined               by virtue of something native to her likewise, though mysti-
           to Laetitia as tall, elegant, lively; and painted as carrying youth   cally, touched Laetitia with a faint sense of relationship to the
           like a flag. With her smile of “very pleasant humour”, she            chosen girl. “What is in me, he sees on her.” It decked her
           could not but be winning.                                             pride to think so, as a wreath on the gravestone. She encour-
               Vernon spoke more of her father, a scholar of high repute;        aged her imagination to brood over Clara, and invested her
           happily, a scholar of an independent fortune. His maturer             designedly with romantic charms, in spite of pain; the ascetic
           recollection of Miss Middleton grew poetic, or he described           zealot hugs his share of Heaven—most bitter, most blessed—
           her in an image to suit a poetic end: “She gives you an idea of       in his hair-shirt and scourge, and Laetitia’s happiness was to
           the Mountain Echo. Doctor Middleton has one of the grandest           glorify Clara. Through that chosen rival, through her com-
           heads in England.”                                                    prehension of the spirit of Sir Willoughby’s choice of one
               “What is her Christian name?” said Laetitia.                      such as Clara, she was linked to him yet.
               He thought her Christian name was Clara.                              Her mood of ecstatic fidelity was a dangerous exaltation;
               Laetitia went to bed and walked through the day conceiv-          one that in a desert will distort the brain, and in the world
           ing the Mountain Echo the swift, wild spirit, Clara by name,          where the idol dwells will put him, should he come nigh, to
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           sent fleeting on a far half circle by the voice it is roused to       its own furnace-test, and get a clear brain out of a burnt heart.
           subserve; sweeter than beautiful, high above drawing-room             She was frequently at the Hall, helping to nurse Lady Patterne.
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           Sir Willoughby had hitherto treated her as a dear insignifi-      bosoms for a fresh flower of love. Sir Willoughby knew it; he
           cant friend, to whom it was unnecessary that he should men-       had experience of it in the form of the stranger; and he knew
           tion the object of his rides to Upton Park.                       the stranger’s feelings toward his predecessor and the lady.
               He had, however, in the contemplation of what he was              He waylaid Laetitia, to talk of himself and his plans: the
           gaining, fallen into anxiety about what he might be losing.       project of a run to Italy. Enviable? Yes, but in England you
           She belonged to his brilliant youth; her devotion was the bride   live the higher moral life. Italy boasts of sensual beauty; the
           of his youth; he was a man who lived backward almost as           spiritual is yours. “I know Italy well; I have often wished to
           intensely as in the present; and, notwithstanding Laetitia’s      act as a cicerone to you there. As it is, I suppose I shall be
           praiseworthy zeal in attending on his mother, he suspected        with those who know the land as well as I do, and will not be
           some unfaithfulness: hardly without cause: she had not looked     particularly enthusiastic:—if you are what you were?” He was
           paler of late; her eyes had not reproached him; the secret of     guilty of this perplexing twist from one person to another in
           the old days between them had been as little concealed as it      a sentence more than once. While he talked exclusively of
           was exposed. She might have buried it, after the way of woman,    himself it seemed to her a condescension. In time he talked
           whose bosoms can be tombs, if we and the world allow them         principally of her, beginning with her admirable care of his
           to be; absolutely sepulchres, where you lie dead, ghastly. Even   mother; and he wished to introduce “a Miss Middleton” to
           if not dead and horrible to think of, you may be lying cold,      her; he wanted her opinion of Miss Middleton; he relied on
           somewhere in a corner. Even if embalmed, you may not be           her intuition of character, had never known it err.
           much visited. And how is the world to know you are em-                “If I supposed it could err, Miss Dale, I should not be so
           balmed? You are no better than a rotting wretch to the world      certain of myself. I am bound up in my good opinion of you,
           that does not have peeps of you in the woman’s breast, and see    you see; and you must continue the same, or where shall I
           lights burning and an occasional exhibition of the services of    be?” Thus he was led to dwell upon friendship, and the charm
           worship. There are women—tell us not of her of Ephesus!—          of the friendship of men and women, “Platonism”, as it was
           that have embalmed you, and have quitted the world to keep        called. “I have laughed at it in the world, but not in the depth
           the tapers alight, and a stranger comes, and they, who have       of my heart. The world’s platonic attachments are laughable
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           your image before them, will suddenly blow out the vestal         enough. You have taught me that the ideal of friendship is
           flames and treat you as dust to fatten the garden of their        possible—when we find two who are capable of a disinter-
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           52                                                                                                                                53

           ested esteem. The rest of life is duty; duty to parents, duty to    tice, and it must be with my consent if you think of quit-
           country. But friendship is the holiday of those who can be          ting?”
           friends. Wives are plentiful, friends are rare. I know how rare!”       “I could almost engage to do that,” she said.
               Laetitia swallowed her thoughts as they sprang up. Why              “You love the place?”
           was he torturing her?—to give himself a holiday? She could              “Yes; I am the most contented of cottagers.”
           bear to lose him—she was used to it—and bear his indiffer-              “I believe, Miss Dale, it would be well for my happiness
           ence, but not that he should disfigure himself; it made her         were I a cottager.”
           poor. It was as if he required an oath of her when he said:             “That is the dream of the palace. But to be one, and not to
           “Italy! But I shall never see a day in Italy to compare with the    wish to be other, is quiet sleep in comparison.”
           day of my return to England, or know a pleasure so exquisite            “You paint a cottage in colours that tempt one to run from
           as your welcome of me. Will you be true to that? May I look         big houses and households.”
           forward to just another such meeting?”                                  “You would run back to them faster, Sir Willoughby.”
               He pressed her for an answer. She gave the best she could.          “You may know me,” said he, bowing and passing on con-
           He was dissatisfied, and to her hearing it was hardly in the        tentedly. He stopped. “But I am not ambitious.”
           tone of manliness that he entreated her to reassure him; he             “Perhaps you are too proud for ambition, Sir Willoughby.”
           womanized his language. She had to say: “I am afraid I can              “You hit me to the life!”
           not undertake to make it an appointment, Sir Willoughby,”               He passed on regretfully. Clara Middleton did not study
           before he recovered his alertness, which he did, for he was         and know him like Laetitia Dale.
           anything but obtuse, with the reply, “You would keep it if              Laetitia was left to think it pleased him to play at cat and
           you promised, and freeze at your post. So, as accidents hap-        mouse. She had not “hit him to the life”, or she would have
           pen, we must leave it to fate. The will’s the thing. You know       marvelled in acknowledging how sincere he was.
           my detestation of changes. At least I have you for my tenant,           At her next sitting by the bedside of Lady Patterne she
           and wherever I am, I see your light at the end of my park.”         received a certain measure of insight that might have helped
               “Neither my father nor I would willingly quit Ivy Cot-          her to fathom him, if only she could have kept her feelings
Contents




           tage,” said Laetitia.                                               down.
               “So far, then,” he murmured. “You will give me a long no-           The old lady was affectionately confidential in talking of
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           54                                                                                                                              55

           her one subject, her son. “And here is another dashing girl,
           my dear; she has money and health and beauty; and so has he;
           and it appears a fortunate union; I hope and pray it may be;
           but we begin to read the world when our eyes grow dim,
           because we read the plain lines, and I ask myself whether
           money and health and beauty on both sides have not been
           the mutual attraction. We tried it before; and that girl Durham
           was honest, whatever we may call her. I should have desired
           an appreciative thoughtful partner for him, a woman of mind,
           with another sort of wealth and beauty. She was honest, she
           ran away in time; there was a worse thing possible than that.                             Chapter 5.
           And now we have the same chapter, and the same kind of                                         Clara Middleton.
           person, who may not be quite as honest; and I shall not see
           the end of it. Promise me you will always be good to him; be          The great meeting of Sir Willoughby Patterne and Miss
           my son’s friend; his Egeria, he names you. Be what you were       Middleton had taken place at Cherriton Grange, the seat of a
           to him when that girl broke his heart, and no one, not even       county grandee, where this young lady of eighteen was first
           his mother, was allowed to see that he suffered anything. Com-    seen rising above the horizon. She had money and health and
           fort him in his sensitiveness. Willoughby has the most entire     beauty, the triune of perfect starriness, which makes all men
           faith in you. Were that destroyed—I shudder! You are, he          astronomers. He looked on her, expecting her to look at him.
           says, and he has often said, his image of the constant woman.”    But as soon as he looked he found that he must be in motion
               Laetitia’s hearing took in no more. She repeated to herself   to win a look in return. He was one of a pack; many were
           for days: “His image of the constant woman!” Now, when he         ahead of him, the whole of them were eager. He had to debate
           was a second time forsaking her, his praise of her constancy      within himself how best to communicate to her that he was
           wore the painful ludicrousness of the look of a whimper on
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                                                                             Willoughby Patterne, before her gloves were too much soiled
           the face.                                                         to flatter his niceness, for here and there, all around, she was
                                                                             yielding her hand to partners—obscurant males whose touch
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           56                                                                                                                                57

           leaves a stain. Far too generally gracious was Her Starriness to    ity of manner; he had in the hopeful ardour of the chase among
           please him. The effect of it, nevertheless, was to hurry him        a multitude a freshness that gave him advantage; and together
           with all his might into the heat of the chase, while yet he         with his undeviating energy when there was a prize to be won
           knew no more of her than that he was competing for a prize,         and possessed, these were scarce resistible. He spared no pains,
           and Willoughby Patterne was only one of dozens to the young         for he was adust and athirst for the winning-post. He courted
           lady.                                                               her father, aware that men likewise, and parents pre-eminently,
               A deeper student of Science than his rivals, he appreciated     have their preference for the larger offer, the deeper pocket,
           Nature’s compliment in the fair ones choice of you. We now          the broader lands, the respectfuller consideration. Men, after
           scientifically know that in this department of the universal        their fashion, as well as women, distinguish the bettermost,
           struggle, success is awarded to the bettermost. You spread a        and aid him to succeed, as Dr. Middleton certainly did in the
           handsomer tail than your fellows, you dress a finer top-knot,       crisis of the memorable question proposed to his daughter
           you pipe a newer note, have a longer stride; she reviews you in     within a month of Willoughby’s reception at Upton Park.
           competition, and selects you. The superlative is magnetic to        The young lady was astonished at his whirlwind wooing of
           her. She may be looking elsewhere, and you will see—the su-         her, and bent to it like a sapling. She begged for time;
           perlative will simply have to beckon, away she glides. She can-     Willoughby could barely wait. She unhesitatingly owned that
           not help herself; it is her nature, and her nature is the guaran-   she liked no one better, and he consented. A calm examina-
           tee for the noblest races of men to come of her. In                 tion of his position told him that it was unfair so long as he
           complimenting you, she is a promise of superior offspring.          stood engaged, and she did not. She pleaded a desire to see a
           Science thus—or it is better to say—an acquaintance with            little of the world before she plighted herself. She alarmed
           science facilitates the cultivation of aristocracy. Consequently    him; he assumed the amazing god of love under the subtlest
           a successful pursuit and a wresting of her from a body of           guise of the divinity. Willingly would he obey her behests,
           competitors, tells you that you are the best man. What is           resignedly languish, were it not for his mother’s desire to see
           more, it tells the world so.                                        the future lady of Patterne established there before she died.
               Willoughby aired his amiable superlatives in the eye of         Love shone cunningly through the mask of filial duty, but
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           Miss Middleton; he had a leg. He was the heir of successful         the plea of urgency was reasonable. Dr. Middleton thought it
           competitors. He had a style, a tone, an artist tailor, an author-   reasonable, supposing his daughter to have an inclination. She
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           had no disinclination, though she had a maidenly desire to         blessings of the mighty world, lying somewhere in the world’s
           see a little of the world—grace for one year, she said.            forests, across wild seas, veiled, encompassed with beautiful
           Willoughby reduced the year to six months, and granted that        perils, a throbbing secrecy, but too remote to quicken her
           term, for which, in gratitude, she submitted to stand engaged;     bosom’s throbs. Her chief idea of it was, the enrichment of
           and that was no light whispering of a word. She was implored       the world by love.
           to enter the state of captivity by the pronunciation of vows—          Thus did Miss Middleton acquiesce in the principle of
           a private but a binding ceremonial. She had health and beauty,     selection.
           and money to gild these gifts; not that he stipulated for money        And then did the best man of a host blow his triumphant
           with his bride, but it adds a lustre to dazzle the world; and,     horn, and loudly.
           moreover, the pack of rival pursuers hung close behind, yelp-          He looked the fittest; he justified the dictum of Science.
           ing and raising their dolorous throats to the moon. Captive        The survival of the Patternes was assured. “I would,” he said
           she must be.                                                       to his admirer, Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson, “have bargained
               He made her engagement no light whispering matter. It          for health above everything, but she has everything besides—
           was a solemn plighting of a troth. Why not? Having said, I         lineage, beauty, breeding: is what they call an heiress, and is
           am yours, she could say, I am wholly yours, I am yours for-        the most accomplished of her sex.” With a delicate art he
           ever, I swear it, I will never swerve from it, I am your wife in   conveyed to the lady’s understanding that Miss Middleton
           heart, yours utterly; our engagement is written above. To this     had been snatched from a crowd, without a breath of the
           she considerately appended, “as far as I am concerned”; a piece    crowd having offended his niceness. He did it through sar-
           of somewhat chilling generosity, and he forced her to pass         casm at your modern young women, who run about the world
           him through love’s catechism in turn, and came out with fer-       nibbling and nibbled at, until they know one sex as well as
           vent answers that bound him to her too indissolubly to let         the other, and are not a whit less cognizant of the market than
           her doubt of her being loved. And I am loved! she exclaimed        men; pure, possibly; it is not so easy to say innocent; decid-
           to her heart’s echoes, in simple faith and wonderment. Hardly      edly not our feminine ideal. Miss Middleton was different:
           had she begun to think of love ere the apparition arose in her     she was the true ideal, fresh-gathered morning fruit in a bas-
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           path. She had not thought of love with any warmth, and here        ket, warranted by her bloom.
           it was. She had only dreamed of love as one of the distant             Women do not defend their younger sisters for doing what
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           they perhaps have done—lifting a veil to be seen, and peeping        the triangle of the fabulous wild woodland visage from brow
           at a world where innocence is as poor a guarantee as a babe’s        to mouth and chin, evidently in agreement with her taste;
           caul against shipwreck. Women of the world never think of            and the triangle suited her; but her face was not significant of
           attacking the sensual stipulation for perfect bloom, silver pu-      a tameless wildness or of weakness; her equable shut mouth
           rity, which is redolent of the Oriental origin of the love-pas-      threw its long curve to guard the small round chin from that
           sion of their lords. Mrs. Mountstuart congratulated Sir              effect; her eyes wavered only in humour, they were steady
           Willoughby on the prize he had won in the fair western-              when thoughtfulness was awakened; and at such seasons the
           eastern.                                                             build of her winter-beechwood hair lost the touch of
               “Let me see her,” she said; and Miss Middleton was intro-        nymphlike and whimsical, and strangely, by mere outline,
           duced and critically observed.                                       added to her appearance of studious concentration. Observe
               She had the mouth that smiles in repose. The lips met full       the hawk on stretched wings over the prey he spies, for an
           on the centre of the bow and thinned along to a lifting dimple;      idea of this change in the look of a young lady whom Vernon
           the eyelids also lifted slightly at the outer corners, and seemed,   Whitford could liken to the Mountain Echo, and Mrs.
           like the lip into the limpid cheek, quickening up the temples,       Mountstuart Jenkinson pronounced to be “a dainty rogue in
           as with a run of light, or the ascension indicated off a shoot of    porcelain”.
           colour. Her features were playfellows of one another, none of            Vernon’s fancy of her must have sprung from her prompt
           them pretending to rigid correctness, nor the nose to the or-        and most musical responsiveness. He preferred the society of
           dinary dignity of governess among merry girls, despite which         her learned father to that of a girl under twenty engaged to
           the nose was of a fair design, not acutely interrogative or in-      his cousin, but the charm of her ready tongue and her voice
           viting to gambols. Aspens imaged in water, waiting for the           was to his intelligent understanding wit, natural wit, crystal
           breeze, would offer a susceptible lover some suggestion of her       wit, as opposed to the paste-sparkle of the wit of the town. In
           face: a pure, smooth-white face, tenderly flushed in the cheeks,     his encomiums he did not quote Miss Middleton’s wit; nev-
           where the gentle dints, were faintly intermelting even during        ertheless, he ventured to speak of it to Mrs. Mountstuart,
           quietness. Her eyes were brown, set well between mild lids,          causing that lady to say: “Ah, well, I have not noticed the wit.
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           often shadowed, not unwakeful. Her hair of lighter brown,            You may have the art of drawing it out.”
           swelling above her temples on the sweep to the knot, imposed             No one had noticed the wit. The corrupted hearing of
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           people required a collision of sounds, Vernon supposed. For         into a flute: and the mouth at the flutestop might have a
           his part, to prove their excellence, he recollected a great many    distant semblance of the bend of her mouth, but this com-
           of Miss Middleton’s remarks; they came flying to him; and so        parison was repelled as grotesque.
           long as he forbore to speak them aloud, they had a curious              For once Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson was unsuccessful.
           wealth of meaning. It could not be all her manner, however              Her “dainty rogue in porcelain” displeased Sir Willoughby.
           much his own manner might spoil them. It might be, to a             “Why rogue?” he said. The lady’s fame for hitting the mark
           certain degree, her quickness at catching the hue and shade of      fretted him, and the grace of his bride’s fine bearing stood to
           evanescent conversation. Possibly by remembering the whole          support him in his objection. Clara was young, healthy, hand-
           of a conversation wherein she had her place, the wit was to be      some; she was therefore fitted to be his wife, the mother of
           tested; only how could any one retain the heavy portion? As         his children, his companion picture. Certainly they looked
           there was no use in being argumentative on a subject afford-        well side by side. In walking with her, in drooping to her, the
           ing him personally, and apparently solitarily, refreshment and      whole man was made conscious of the female image of him-
           enjoyment, Vernon resolved to keep it to himself. The eulo-         self by her exquisite unlikeness. She completed him, added
           gies of her beauty, a possession in which he did not consider       the softer lines wanting to his portrait before the world. He
           her so very conspicuous, irritated him in consequence. To flatter   had wooed her rageingly; he courted her becomingly; with
           Sir Willoughby, it was the fashion to exalt her as one of the       the manly self-possession enlivened by watchful tact which is
           types of beauty; the one providentially selected to set off his     pleasing to girls. He never seemed to undervalue himself in
           masculine type. She was compared to those delicate flowers,         valuing her: a secret priceless in the courtship of young women
           the ladies of the Court of China, on rice-paper. A little French    that have heads; the lover doubles their sense of personal worth
           dressing would make her at home on the sward by the foun-           through not forfeiting his own. Those were proud and happy
           tain among the lutes and whispers of the bewitching silken          days when he rode Black Norman over to Upton Park, and
           shepherdesses who live though they never were. Lady Busshe          his lady looked forth for him and knew him coming by the
           was reminded of the favourite lineaments of the women of            faster beating of her heart.
           Leonardo, the angels of Luini. Lady Culmer had seen crayon              Her mind, too, was receptive. She took impressions of his
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           sketches of demoiselles of the French aristocracy resembling        characteristics, and supplied him a feast. She remembered his
           her. Some one mentioned an antique statue of a figure breathing     chance phrases; noted his ways, his peculiarities, as no one of
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           her sex had done. He thanked his cousin Vernon for saying         her company. Attend to my advice: prize the porcelain and
           she had wit. She had it, and of so high a flavour that the more   play with the rogue.”
           he thought of the epigram launched at her the more he grew            Sir Willoughby nodded, unilluminated. There was noth-
           displeased. With the wit to understand him, and the heart to      ing of rogue in himself, so there could be nothing of it in his
           worship, she had a dignity rarely seen in young ladies.           bride. Elfishness, tricksiness, freakishness, were antipathetic
              “Why rogue?” he insisted with Mrs. Mountstuart.                to his nature; and he argued that it was impossible he should
              “I said—in porcelain,” she replied.                            have chosen for his complement a person deserving the title.
              “Rogue perplexes me.”                                          It would not have been sanctioned by his guardian genius.
              “Porcelain explains it.”                                       His closer acquaintance with Miss Middleton squared with
              “She has the keenest sense of honour.”                         his first impressions; you know that this is convincing; the
              “I am sure she is a paragon of rectitude.”                     common jury justifies the presentation of the case to them by
              “She has a beautiful bearing.”                                 the grand jury; and his original conclusion that she was es-
              “The carriage of a young princess!”                            sentially feminine, in other words, a parasite and a chalice,
              “I find her perfect.”                                          Clara’s conduct confirmed from day to day. He began to in-
              “And still she may be a dainty rogue in porcelain.”            struct her in the knowledge of himself without reserve, and
              “Are you judging by the mind or the person, ma’am?”            she, as she grew less timid with him, became more reflective.
              “Both.”                                                            “I judge by character,” he said to Mrs. Mountstuart.
              “And which is which?”                                              “If you have caught the character of a girl,” said she.
              “There’s no distinction.”                                          “I think I am not far off it.”
              “Rogue and mistress of Patterne do not go together.”               “So it was thought by the man who dived for the moon in
              “Why not? She will be a novelty to our neighbourhood           a well.”
           and an animation of the Hall.”                                        “How women despise their sex!”
              “To be frank, rogue does not rightly match with me.”               “Not a bit. She has no character yet. You are forming it,
              “Take her for a supplement.”                                   and pray be advised and be merry; the solid is your safest
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              “You like her?”                                                guide; physiognomy and manners will give you more of a
              “In love with her! I can imagine life-long amusement in        girl’s character than all the divings you can do. She is a charming
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           66                                                                                                                            67

           young woman, only she is one of that sort.”                     physiognomy and manners bespoke him what she presumed
              “Of what sort?” Sir Willoughby asked, impatiently.           him to be, a splendidly proud gentleman, with good reason.
              “Rogues in porcelain.”                                           Mrs. Mountstuart’s advice was wiser than her procedure,
              “I am persuaded I shall never comprehend it.”                for she stopped short where he declined to begin. He dived
              “I cannot help you one bit further.”                         below the surface without studying that index-page. He had
              “The word rogue!”                                            won Miss Middleton’s hand; he believed he had captured her
              “It was dainty rogue.”                                       heart; but he was not so certain of his possession of her soul,
              “Brittle, would you say?”                                    and he went after it. Our enamoured gentleman had there-
              “I am quite unable to say.”                                  fore no tally of Nature’s writing above to set beside his dis-
              “An innocent naughtiness?”                                   coveries in the deeps. Now it is a dangerous accompaniment
              “Prettily moulded in a delicate substance.”                  of this habit of driving, that where we do not light on the
              “You are thinking of some piece of Dresden you suppose       discoveries we anticipate, we fall to work sowing and plant-
           her to resemble.”                                               ing; which becomes a disturbance of the gentle bosom. Miss
              “I dare say.”                                                Middleton’s features were legible as to the mainspring of her
              “Artificial?”                                                character. He could have seen that she had a spirit with a
              “You would not have her natural?”                            natural love of liberty, and required the next thing to liberty,
              “I am heartily satisfied with her from head to foot, my      spaciousness, if she was to own allegiance. Those features,
           dear Mrs. Mountstuart.”                                         unhappily, instead of serving for an introduction to the within,
              “Nothing could be better. And sometimes she will lead,       were treated as the mirror of himself. They were indeed of an
           and generally you will lead, and everything will go well, my    amiable sweetness to tempt an accepted lover to angle for the
           dear Sir Willoughby.”                                           first person in the second. But he had made the discovery
              Like all rapid phrasers, Mrs. Mountstuart detested the       that their minds differed on one or two points, and a differ-
           analysis of her sentence. It had an outline in vagueness, and   ence of view in his bride was obnoxious to his repose. He
           was flung out to be apprehended, not dissected. Her direc-      struck at it recurringly to show her error under various as-
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           tions for the reading of Miss Middleton’s character were the    pects. He desired to shape her character to the feminine of his
           same that she practised in reading Sir Willoughby’s, whose      own, and betrayed the surprise of a slight disappointment at
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           her advocacy of her ideas. She said immediately: “It is not too
           late, Willoughby,” and wounded him, for he wanted her sim-
           ply to be material in his hands for him to mould her; he had
           no other thought. He lectured her on the theme of the infin-
           ity of love. How was it not too late? They were plighted; they
           were one eternally; they could not be parted. She listened
           gravely, conceiving the infinity as a narrow dwelling where a
           voice droned and ceased not. However, she listened. She be-
           came an attentive listener.

                                                                                                     Chapter 6.
                                                                                                            His courtship.

                                                                                 The world was the principal topic of dissension between
                                                                             these lovers. His opinion of the world affected her like a crea-
                                                                             ture threatened with a deprivation of air. He explained to his
                                                                             darling that lovers of necessity do loathe the world. They live
                                                                             in the world, they accept its benefits, and assist it as well as
                                                                             they can. In their hearts they must despise it, shut it out, that
                                                                             their love for one another may pour in a clear channel, and
                                                                             with all the force they have. They cannot enjoy the sense of
                                                                             security for their love unless they fence away the world. It is,
                                                                             you will allow, gross; it is a beast. Formally we thank it for the
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                                                                             good we get of it; only we two have an inner temple where the
                                                                             worship we conduct is actually, if you would but see it, an
                                                                             excommunication of the world. We abhor that beast to adore
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           that divinity. This gives us our oneness, our isolation, our hap-    and pained murmur: “I am no poet;” but his poetry of the
           piness. This is to love with the soul. Do you see, darling?          enclosed and fortified bower, without nonsensical rhymes to
               She shook her head; she could not see it. She would admit        catch the ears of women, appeared incomprehensible to her, if
           none of the notorious errors, of the world; its backbiting, self-    not adverse. She would not burn the world for him; she would
           ishness, coarseness, intrusiveness, infectiousness. She was young.   not, though a purer poetry is little imaginable, reduce herself
           She might, Willoughby thought, have let herself be led; she          to ashes, or incense, or essence, in honour of him, and so, by
           was not docile. She must be up in arms as a champion of the          love’s transmutation, literally be the man she was to marry.
           world; and one saw she was hugging her dream of a romantic           She preferred to be herself, with the egoism of women. She
           world, nothing else. She spoilt the secret bower-song he de-         said it: she said: “I must be myself to be of any value to you,
           lighted to tell over to her. And how, Powers of Love! is love-       Willoughby.” He was indefatigable in his lectures on the aes-
           making to be pursued if we may not kick the world out of our         thetics of love. Frequently, for an indemnification to her (he
           bower and wash our hands of it? Love that does not spurn the         had no desire that she should be a loser by ceasing to admire
           world when lovers curtain themselves is a love—is it not so?—        the world), he dwelt on his own youthful ideas; and his origi-
           that seems to the unwhipped, scoffing world to go slinking           nal fancies about the world were presented to her as a substi-
           into basiation’s obscurity, instead of on a glorious march be-       tute for the theme.
           hind the screen. Our hero had a strong sentiment as to the               Miss Middleton bore it well, for she was sure that he meant
           policy of scorning the world for the sake of defending his           well. Bearing so well what was distasteful to her, she became
           personal pride and (to his honour, be it said) his lady’s deli-      less well able to bear what she had merely noted in observa-
           cacy.                                                                tion before; his view of scholarship; his manner toward Mr.
               The act of seeming put them both above the world, said           Vernon Whitford, of whom her father spoke warmly; the
           retro Sathanas! So much, as a piece of tactics: he was highly        rumour concerning his treatment of a Miss Dale. And the
           civilized: in the second instance, he knew it to be the world        country tale of Constantia Durham sang itself to her in a
           which must furnish the dry sticks for the bonfire of a woman’s       new key. He had no contempt for the world’s praises. Mr.
           worship. He knew, too, that he was prescribing poetry to his         Whitford wrote the letters to the county paper which gained
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           betrothed, practicable poetry. She had a liking for poetry, and      him applause at various great houses, and he accepted it, and
           sometimes quoted the stuff in defiance of his pursed mouth           betrayed a tingling fright lest he should be the victim of a
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           72                                                                                                                                73

           sneer of the world he contemned. Recollecting his remarks,          responsible for her thoughts.
           her mind was afflicted by the “something illogical” in him               He outshone Mr. Whitford in his behaviour to young
           that we readily discover when our natures are no longer run-        Crossjay. She had seen him with the boy, and he was amused,
           ning free, and then at once we yearn for a disputation. She         indulgent, almost frolicsome, in contradistinction to Mr.
           resolved that she would one day, one distant day, provoke it—       Whitford’s tutorly sharpness. He had the English father’s tone
           upon what? The special point eluded her. The world is too           of a liberal allowance for boys’ tastes and pranks, and he min-
           huge a client, and too pervious, too spotty, for a girl to defend   istered to the partiality of the genus for pocket-money. He
           against a man. That “something illogical” had stirred her feel-     did not play the schoolmaster, like bookworms who get poor
           ings more than her intellect to revolt. She could not consti-       little lads in their grasp.
           tute herself the advocate of Mr. Whitford. Still she marked              Mr. Whitford avoided her very much. He came to Upton
           the disputation for an event to come.                               Park on a visit to her father, and she was not particularly sorry
               Meditating on it, she fell to picturing Sir Willoughby’s        that she saw him only at table. He treated her by fits to a level
           face at the first accents of his bride’s decided disagreement       scrutiny of deep-set eyes unpleasantly penetrating. She had
           with him. The picture once conjured up would not be laid.           liked his eyes. They became unbearable; they dwelt in the
           He was handsome; so correctly handsome, that a slight un-           memory as if they had left a phosphorescent line. She had
           friendly touch precipitated him into caricature. His habitual       been taken by playmate boys in her infancy to peep into
           air of happy pride, of indignant contentment rather, could          hedge-leaves, where the mother-bird brooded on the nest;
           easily be overdone. Surprise, when he threw emphasis on it,         and the eyes of the bird in that marvellous dark thickset home,
           stretched him with the tall eyebrows of a mask—limitless            had sent her away with worlds of fancy. Mr. Whitford’s gaze
           under the spell of caricature; and in time, whenever she was        revived her susceptibility, but not the old happy wondering.
           not pleased by her thoughts, she had that, and not his like-        She was glad of his absence, after a certain hour that she passed
           ness, for the vision of him. And it was unjust, contrary to her     with Willoughby, a wretched hour to remember. Mr.
           deeper feelings; she rebuked herself, and as much as her            Whitford had left, and Willoughby came, bringing bad news
           naughty spirit permitted, she tried to look on him as the world     of his mother’s health. Lady Patterne was fast failing. Her son
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           did; an effort inducing reflections upon the blessings of ig-       spoke of the loss she would be to him; he spoke of the dread-
           norance. She seemed to herself beset by a circle of imps, hardly    fulness of death. He alluded to his own death to come care-
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           74                                                                                                                              75

           lessly, with a philosophical air.                                 wave to wave! I know them.”
               “All of us must go! our time is short.”                           “Willoughby, do not torment yourself and me, I beg you.”
               “Very,” she assented.                                             He meditated profoundly, and asked her: “Could you be
               It sounded like want of feeling.                              such a saint among women?”
               “If you lose me, Clara!”                                          “I think I am a more than usually childish girl.”
               “But you are strong, Willoughby.”                                 “Not to forget me?”
               “I may be cut off to-morrow.”                                     “Oh! no.”
               “Do not talk in such a manner.”                                   “Still to be mine?”
               “It is as well that it should be faced.”                          “I am yours.”
               “I cannot see what purpose it serves.”                            “To plight yourself?”
               “Should you lose me, my love!”                                    “It is done.”
               “Willoughby!”                                                     “Be mine beyond death?”
               “Oh, the bitter pang of leaving you!”                             “Married is married, I think.”
               “Dear Willoughby, you are distressed; your mother may             “Clara! to dedicate your life to our love! Never one touch;
           recover; let us hope she will; I will help to nurse her; I have   not one whisper! not a thought, not a dream! Could you—it
           offered, you know; I am ready, most anxious. I believe I am a     agonizes me to imagine . . . be inviolate? mine above?—mine
           good nurse.”                                                      before all men, though I am gone:—true to my dust? Tell
               “It is this belief—that one does not die with death!”         me. Give me that assurance. True to my name!—Oh, I hear
               “That is our comfort.”                                        them. ‘His relict!’ Buzzings about Lady Patterne. ‘The widow.’
               “When we love?”                                               If you knew their talk of widows! Shut your ears, my angel!
               “Does it not promise that we meet again?”                     But if she holds them off and keeps her path, they are forced
               “To walk the world and see you perhaps—with another!”         to respect her. The dead husband is not the dishonoured
               “See me?—Where? Here?”                                        wretch they fancied him, because he was out of their way. He
               “Wedded . . . to another. You! my bride; whom I call mine;    lives in the heart of his wife. Clara! my Clara! as I live in
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           and you are! You would be still—in that horror! But all things    yours, whether here or away; whether you are a wife or widow,
           are possible; women are women; they swim in infidelity, from      there is no distinction for love—I am your husband—say it—
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           76                                                                                                                                     77

           eternally. I must have peace; I cannot endure the pain. De-               “To me! me!”
           pressed, yes; I have cause to be. But it has haunted me ever              “It will be to you.”
           since we joined hands. To have you—to lose you!”                          “To my soul. No heaven can be for me—I see none, only
               “Is it not possible that I may be the first to die?” said Miss    torture, unless I have your word, Clara. I trust it. I will trust it
           Middleton.                                                            implicitly. My confidence in you is absolute.”
               “And lose you, with the thought that you, lovely as you               “Then you need not be troubled.”
           are, and the dogs of the world barking round you, might . . . Is          “It is for you, my love; that you may be armed and strong
           it any wonder that I have my feeling for the world? This              when I am not by to protect you.”
           hand!—the thought is horrible. You would be surrounded;                   “Our views of the world are opposed, Willoughby.”
           men are brutes; the scent of unfaithfulness excites them, over-           “Consent; gratify me; swear it. Say: ‘Beyond death.’ Whis-
           joys them. And I helpless! The thought is maddening. I see a          per it. I ask for nothing more. Women think the husband’s
           ring of monkeys grinning. There is your beauty, and man’s             grave breaks the bond, cuts the tie, sets them loose. They wed
           delight in desecrating. You would be worried night and day            the flesh—pah! What I call on you for is nobility; the tran-
           to quit my name, to . . . I feel the blow now. You would have         scendent nobility of faithfulness beyond death. ‘His widow!’
           no rest for them, nothing to cling to without your oath.”             let them say; a saint in widowhood.”
               “An oath!” said Miss Middleton.                                       “My vows at the altar must suffice.”
               “It is no delusion, my love, when I tell you that with this           “You will not? Clara!”
           thought upon me I see a ring of monkey faces grinning at me;              “I am plighted to you.”
           they haunt me. But you do swear it! Once, and I will never                “Not a word?—a simple promise? But you love me?”
           trouble you on the subject again. My weakness! if you like.               “I have given you the best proof of it that I can.”
           You will learn that it is love, a man’s love, stronger than death.”       “Consider how utterly I place confidence in you.”
               “An oath?” she said, and moved her lips to recall what she            “I hope it is well placed.”
           might have said and forgotten. “To what? what oath?”                      “I could kneel to you, to worship you, if you would, Clara!”
               “That you will be true to me dead as well as living! Whis-            “Kneel to Heaven, not to me, Willoughby. I am—I wish I
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           per it.”                                                              were able to tell what I am. I may be inconstant; I do not
               “Willoughby, I shall be true to my vows at the altar.”            know myself. Think; question yourself whether I am really
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           the person you should marry. Your wife should have great           You have but to think a little. I must be off. It may have
           qualities of mind and soul. I will consent to hear that I do not   happened during my absence. I will write. I shall hear from
           possess them, and abide by the verdict.”                           you? Come and see me mount Black Norman. My respects to
               “You do; you do possess them!” Willoughby cried. “When         your father. I have no time to pay them in person. One!”
           you know better what the world is, you will understand my              He took the one—love’s mystical number—from which
           anxiety. Alive, I am strong to shield you from it; dead, help-     commonly spring multitudes; but, on the present occasion, it
           less—that is all. You would be clad in mail, steel-proof, invio-   was a single one, and cold. She watched him riding away on
           lable, if you would . . . But try to enter into my mind; think     his gallant horse, as handsome a cavalier as the world could
           with me, feel with me. When you have once comprehended             show, and the contrast of his recent language and his fine
           the intensity of the love of a man like me, you will not require   figure was a riddle that froze her blood. Speech so foreign to
           asking. It is the difference of the elect and the vulgar; of the   her ears, unnatural in tone, unmanlike even for a lover (who is
           ideal of love from the coupling of the herds. We will let it       allowed a softer dialect), set her vainly sounding for the source
           drop. At least, I have your hand. As long as I live I have your    and drift of it. She was glad of not having to encounter eyes
           hand. Ought I not to be satisfied? I am; only I see further        like Mr. Vernon Whitford’s.
           than most men, and feel more deeply. And now I must ride               On behalf of Sir Willoughby, it is to be said that his
           to my mother’s bedside. She dies Lady Patterne! It might           mother, without infringing on the degree of respect for his
           have been that she . . . But she is a woman of women! With a       decisions and sentiments exacted by him, had talked to him
           father-in-law! Just heaven! Could I have stood by her then         of Miss Middleton, suggesting a volatility of temperament in
           with the same feelings of reverence? A very little, my love,       the young lady that struck him as consentaneous with Mrs
           and everything gained for us by civilization crumbles; we fall     Mountstuart’s “rogue in porcelain”, and alarmed him as the
           back to the first mortar-bowl we were bruised and stirred in.      independent observations of two world-wise women. Nor was
           My thoughts, when I take my stand to watch by her, come to         it incumbent upon him personally to credit the volatility in
           this conclusion, that, especially in women, distinction is the     order, as far as he could, to effect the soul-insurance of his
           thing to be aimed at. Otherwise we are a weltering human           bride, that he might hold the security of the policy. The de-
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           mass. Women must teach us to venerate them, or we may as           sire for it was in him; his mother had merely tolled a warning
           well be bleating and barking and bellowing. So, now enough.        bell that he had put in motion before. Clara was not a
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           Constantia. But she was a woman, and he had been deceived         freedom to her friends. After the weeks to be passed at
           by women, as a man fostering his high ideal of them will          Patterne, very few weeks were left to her, and she had a wish
           surely be. The strain he adopted was quite natural to his pas-    to run to Switzerland or Tyrol and see the Alps; a quaint
           sion and his theme. The language of the primitive sentiments      idea, her father thought. She repeated it seriously, and Dr.
           of men is of the same expression at all times, minus the primi-   Middleton perceived a feminine shuttle of indecision at work
           tive colours when a modern gentleman addresses his lady.          in her head, frightful to him, considering that they signified
               Lady Patterne died in the winter season of the new year.      hesitation between the excellent library and capital wine-cel-
           In April Dr Middleton had to quit Upton Park, and he had          lar of Patterne Hall, together with the society of that promis-
           not found a place of residence, nor did he quite know what to     ing young scholar, Mr. Vernon Whitford, on the one side,
           do with himself in the prospect of his daughter’s marriage        and a career of hotels—equivalent to being rammed into
           and desertion of him. Sir Willoughby proposed to find him a       monster artillery with a crowd every night, and shot off on a
           house within a circuit of the neighbourhood of Patterne.          day’s journey through space every morning—on the other.
           Moreover, he invited the Rev. Doctor and his daughter to come         “You will have your travelling and your Alps after the cer-
           to Patterne from Upton for a month, and make acquaintance         emony,” he said.
           with his aunts, the ladies Eleanor and Isabel Patterne, so that       “I think I would rather stay at home,” said she.
           it might not be so strange to Clara to have them as her               Dr Middleton rejoined: “I would.”
           housemates after her marriage. Dr. Middleton omitted to con-          “But I am not married yet papa.”
           sult his daughter before accepting the invitation, and it ap-         “As good, my dear.”
           peared, when he did speak to her, that it should have been            “A little change of scene, I thought . . .”
           done. But she said, mildly, “Very well, papa.”                        “We have accepted Willoughby’s invitation. And he helps
               Sir Willoughby had to visit the metropolis and an estate      me to a house near you.”
           in another county, whence he wrote to his betrothed daily.            “You wish to be near me, papa?”
           He returned to Patterne in time to arrange for the welcome            “Proximate—at a remove: communicable.”
           of his guests; too late, however, to ride over to them; and,          “Why should we separate?”
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           meanwhile, during his absence, Miss Middleton had be-                 “For the reason, my dear, that you exchange a father for a
           thought herself that she ought to have given her last days of     husband.”
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               “If I do not want to exchange?”
               “To purchase, you must pay, my child. Husbands are not
           given for nothing.”
               “No. But I should have you, papa!”
               “Should?”
               “They have not yet parted us, dear papa.”
               “What does that mean?” he asked, fussily. He was in a
           gentle stew already, apprehensive of a disturbance of the se-
           renity precious to scholars by postponements of the ceremony
           and a prolongation of a father’s worries.
               “Oh, the common meaning, papa,” she said, seeing how it                               Chapter 7.
           was with him.                                                                                    The betrothed.
               “Ah!” said he, nodding and blinking gradually back to a
           state of composure, glad to be appeased on any terms; for             During the drive from Upton to Patterne, Miss Middleton
           mutability is but another name for the sex, and it is the en-     hoped, she partly believed, that there was to be a change in
           emy of the scholar.                                               Sir Willoughby’s manner of courtship. He had been so dif-
               She suggested that two weeks of Patterne would offer plenty   ferent a wooer. She remembered with some half-conscious
           of time to inspect the empty houses of the district, and should   desperation of fervour what she had thought of him at his
           be sufficient, considering the claims of friends, and the ne-     first approaches, and in accepting him. Had she seen him
           cessity of going the round of London shops.                       with the eyes of the world, thinking they were her own? That
               “Two or three weeks,” he agreed, hurriedly, by way of com-    look of his, the look of “indignant contentment”, had then
           promise with that fearful prospect.                               been a most noble conquering look, splendid as a general’s
                                                                             plume at the gallop. It could not have altered. Was it that her
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                                                                             eyes had altered?
                                                                                 The spirit of those days rose up within her to reproach,
                                                                             her and whisper of their renewal: she remembered her rosy
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           dreams and the image she had of him, her throbbing pride in           to remember, and appetite shall have but one tooth remain-
           him, her choking richness of happiness: and also her vain at-         ing. Should their minds perchance have been saturated by
           tempting to be very humble, usually ending in a carol, quaint         their first impressions and have retained them, loving by the
           to think of, not without charm, but quaint, puzzling.                 accountable light of reason, they may have fair harvests, as in
               Now men whose incomes have been restricted to the ex-             the early time; but that case is rare. In other words, love is an
           tent that they must live on their capital, soon grow relieved of      affair of two, and is only for two that can be as quick, as
           the forethoughtful anguish wasting them by the hilarious              constant in intercommunication as are sun and earth, through
           comforts of the lap upon which they have sunk back, insomuch          the cloud or face to face. They take their breath of life from
           that they are apt to solace themselves for their intolerable          one another in signs of affection, proofs of faithfulness, in-
           anticipations of famine in the household by giving loose to           centives to admiration. Thus it is with men and women in
           one fit or more of reckless lavishness. Lovers in like manner         love’s good season. But a solitary soul dragging a log must
           live on their capital from failure of income: they, too, for the      make the log a God to rejoice in the burden. That is not love.
           sake of stifling apprehension and piping to the present hour,             Clara was the least fitted of all women to drag a log. Few
           are lavish of their stock, so as rapidly to attenuate it: they have   girls would be so rapid in exhausting capital. She was femi-
           their fits of intoxication in view of coming famine: they force       nine indeed, but she wanted comradeship, a living and frank
           memory into play, love retrospectively, enter the old house of        exchange of the best in both, with the deeper feelings un-
           the past and ravage the larder, and would gladly, even reso-          troubled. To be fixed at the mouth of a mine, and to have to
           lutely, continue in illusion if it were possible for the broadest     descend it daily, and not to discover great opulence below; on
           honey-store of reminiscences to hold out for a length of time         the contrary, to be chilled in subterranean sunlessness, with-
           against a mortal appetite: which in good sooth stands on the          out any substantial quality that she could grasp, only the
           alternative of a consumption of the hive or of the creature it is     mystery of the inefficient tallow-light in those caverns of the
           for nourishing. Here do lovers show that they are perishable.         complacent-talking man: this appeared to her too extreme a
           More than the poor clay world they need fresh supplies, right         probation for two or three weeks. How of a lifetime of it!
           wholesome juices; as it were, life in the burst of the bud,               She was compelled by her nature to hope, expect and be-
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           fruits yet on the tree, rather than potted provender. The latter      lieve that Sir Willoughby would again be the man she had
           is excellent for by-and-by, when there will be a vast deal more       known when she accepted him. Very singularly, to show her
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           simple spirit at the time, she was unaware of any physical            Young Crossjay had not accomplished so fine a piece of
           coldness to him; she knew of nothing but her mind at work,        destruction as Sir Willoughby’s humour proclaimed of him.
           objecting to this and that, desiring changes. She did not dream   He had connected a battery with a train of gunpowder, shat-
           of being on the giddy ridge of the passive or negative senti-     tering a window-frame and unsettling some bricks. Dr.
           ment of love, where one step to the wrong side precipitates us    Middleton asked if the youth was excluded from the library,
           into the state of repulsion.                                      and rejoiced to hear that it was a sealed door to him. Thither
               Her eyes were lively at their meeting—so were his. She        they went. Vernon Whitford was away on one of his long
           liked to see him on the steps, with young Crossjay under his      walks.
           arm. Sir Willoughby told her in his pleasantest humour of             “There, papa, you see he is not so very faithful to you,”
           the boy’s having got into the laboratory that morning to es-      said Clara.
           cape his task-master, and blown out the windows. She ad-              Dr Middleton stood frowning over MS notes on the table,
           ministered a chiding to the delinquent in the same spirit,        in Vernon’s handwriting. He flung up the hair from his fore-
           while Sir Willoughby led her on his arm across the threshold,     head and dropped into a seat to inspect them closely. He was
           whispering: “Soon for good!” In reply to the whisper, she         now immoveable. Clara was obliged to leave him there. She
           begged for more of the story of young Crossjay. “Come into        was led to think that Willoughby had drawn them to the
           the laboratory”: said he, a little less laughingly than softly;   library with the design to be rid of her protector, and she
           and Clara begged her father to come and see young Crossjay’s      began to fear him. She proposed to pay her respects to the
           latest pranks. Sir Willoughby whispered to her of the length      ladies Eleanor and Isabel. They were not seen, and a footman
           of their separation, and his joy to welcome her to the house      reported in the drawing-room that they were out driving. She
           where she would reign as mistress very won. He numbered           grasped young Crossjay’s hand. Sir Willoughby dispatched
           the weeks. He whispered: “Come.” In the hurry of the mo-          him to Mrs. Montague, the housekeeper, for a tea of cakes
           ment she did not examine a lightning terror that shot through     and jam.
           her. It passed, and was no more than the shadow which bends           “Off!” he said, and the boy had to run.
           the summer grasses, leaving a ruffle of her ideas, in wonder of       Clara saw herself without a shield.
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           her having feared herself for something. Her father was with          “And the garden!” she cried. “I love the garden; I must go
           them. She and Willoughby were not yet alone.                      and see what flowers are up with you. In spring I care most
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           88                                                                                                                                     89

           for wild flowers, and if you will show me daffodils and cro-          that she must submit, and when she would rather be gazing
           cuses and anemones . . .”                                             at flowers. Clara had shame of her sex. They cannot take a
               “My dearest Clara! my bride!” said he.                            step without becoming bondwomen: into what a slavery! For
               “Because they are vulgar flowers?” she asked him, artlessly,      herself, her trial was over, she thought. As for herself, she merely
           to account for his detaining her.                                     complained of a prematureness and crudity best unanalyzed.
               Why would he not wait to deserve her!—no, not deserve—            In truth, she could hardly be said to complain. She did but
           to reconcile her with her real position; not reconcile, but to        criticize him and wonder that a man was unable to perceive,
           repair the image of him in her mind, before he claimed his            or was not arrested by perceiving, unwillingness, discordance,
           apparent right!                                                       dull compliance; the bondwoman’s due instead of the bride’s
               He did not wait. He pressed her to his bosom.                     consent. Oh, sharp distinction, as between two spheres!
               “You are mine, my Clara—utterly mine; every thought,                  She meted him justice; she admitted that he had spoken
           every feeling. We are one: the world may do its worst. I have         in a lover-like tone. Had it not been for the iteration of “the
           been longing for you, looking forward. You save me from a             world”, she would not have objected critically to his words,
           thousand vexations. One is perpetually crossed. That is all           though they were words of downright appropriation. He had
           outside us. We two! With you I am secure! Soon! I could not           the right to use them, since she was to be married to him. But
           tell you whether the world’s alive or dead. My dearest!”              if he had only waited before playing the privileged lover!
               She came out of it with the sensations of the frightened              Sir Willoughby was enraptured with her. Even so purely
           child that has had its dip in sea-water, sharpened to think           coldly, statue-like, Dian-like, would he have prescribed his
           that after all it was not so severe a trial. Such was her idea; and   bride’s reception of his caress. The suffusion of crimson com-
           she said to herself immediately: What am I that I should              ing over her subsequently, showing her divinely feminine in
           complain? Two minutes earlier she would not have thought              reflective bashfulness, agreed with his highest definitions of
           it; but humiliated pride falls lower than humbleness.                 female character.
               She did not blame him; she fell in her own esteem; less               “Let me conduct you to the garden, my love,” he said.
           because she was the betrothed Clara Middleton, which was                  She replied: “I think I would rather go to my room.”
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           now palpable as a shot in the breast of a bird, than that she             “I will send you a wild-flower posy.”
           was a captured woman, of whom it is absolutely expected                   “Flowers, no; I do not like them to be gathered.”
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               “I will wait for you on the lawn.”                             bride, almost his wife; her conduct was a kind of madness;
               “My head is rather heavy.”                                     she could not understand it.
               His deep concern and tenderness brought him close.                 Good sense and duty counselled her to control her way-
               She assured him sparklingly that she was well. She was         ward spirit.
           ready to accompany him to the garden and stroll over the               He fondled her hand, and to that she grew accustomed;
           park.                                                              her hand was at a distance. And what is a hand? Leaving it
               “Headache it is not,” she added.                               where it was, she treated it as a link between herself and duti-
               But she had to pay the fee for inviting a solicitous ac-       ful goodness. Two months hence she was a bondwoman for
           cepted gentleman’s proximity.                                      life! She regretted that she had not gone to her room to
               This time she blamed herself and him, and the world he         strengthen herself with a review of her situation, and meet
           abused, and destiny into the bargain. And she cared less about     him thoroughly resigned to her fate. She fancied she would
           the probation; but she craved for liberty. With a frigidity        have come down to him amicably. It was his present respect-
           that astonished her, she marvelled at the act of kissing, and at   fulness and easy conversation that tricked her burning nerves
           the obligation it forced upon an inanimate person to be an         with the fancy. Five weeks of perfect liberty in the moun-
           accomplice. Why was she not free? By what strange right was        tains, she thought, would have prepared her for the days of
           it that she was treated as a possession?                           bells. All that she required was a separation offering new scenes,
               “I will try to walk off the heaviness,” she said.              where she might reflect undisturbed, feel clear again.
               “My own girl must not fatigue herself.”                            He led her about the flower-beds; too much as if he were
               “Oh, no; I shall not.”                                         giving a convalescent an airing. She chafed at it, and pricked
               “Sit with me. Your Willoughby is your devoted attendant.”      herself with remorse. In contrition she expatiated on the
               “I have a desire for the air.”                                 beauty of the garden.
               “Then we will walk out.”                                           “All is yours, my Clara.”
               She was horrified to think how far she had drawn away              An oppressive load it seemed to her! She passively yielded
           from him, and now placed her hand on his arm to appease her        to the man in his form of attentive courtier; his mansion,
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           self-accusations and propitiate duty. He spoke as she had          estate, and wealth overwhelmed her. They suggested the price
           wished, his manner was what she had wished; she was his            to be paid. Yet she recollected that on her last departure
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           through the park she had been proud of the rolling green and         “You are very good.”
           spreading trees. Poison of some sort must be operating in her.       “I find my merit nowhere but in your satisfaction.”
           She had not come to him to-day with this feeling of sullen           Although she was not thirsting for dulcet sayings, the
           antagonism; she had caught it here.                              peacefulness of other than invitations to the exposition of his
               “You have been well, my Clara?”                              mysteries and of their isolation in oneness, inspired her with
               “Quite.”                                                     such calm that she beat about in her brain, as if it were in the
               “Not a hint of illness?”                                     brain, for the specific injury he had committed. Sweeping
               “None.”                                                      from sensation to sensation, the young, whom sensations im-
               “My bride must have her health if all the doctors in the     pel and distract, can rarely date their disturbance from a par-
           kingdom die for it! My darling!”                                 ticular one; unless it be some great villain injury that has
               “And tell me: the dogs?”                                     been done; and Clara had not felt an individual shame in his
               “Dogs and horses are in very good condition.”                caress; the shame of her sex was but a passing protest, that left
               “I am glad. Do you know, I love those ancient French cha-    no stamp. So she conceived she had been behaving cruelly,
           teaux and farms in one, where salon windows look on poul-        and said, “Willoughby”; because she was aware of the omis-
           try-yard and stalls. I like that homeliness with beasts and      sion of his name in her previous remarks.
           peasants.”                                                           His whole attention was given to her.
               He bowed indulgently.                                            She had to invent the sequel. “I was going to beg you,
               “I am afraid we can’t do it for you in England, my Clara.”   Willoughby, do not seek to spoil me. You compliment me.
               “No.”                                                        Compliments are not suited to me. You think too highly of
               “And I like the farm,” said he. “But I think our drawing-    me. It is nearly as bad as to be slighted. I am . . . I am a . . .”
           rooms have a better atmosphere off the garden. As to our         But she could not follow his example; even as far as she had
           peasantry, we cannot, I apprehend, modify our class demar-       gone, her prim little sketch of herself, set beside her real, ugly,
           cations without risk of disintegrating the social structure.”    earnest feelings, rang of a mincing simplicity, and was a step
               “Perhaps. I proposed nothing.”                               in falseness. How could she display what she was?
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               “My love, I would entreat you to propose if I were con-          “Do I not know you?” he said.
           vinced that I could obey.”                                           The melodious bass notes, expressive of conviction on that
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           94                                                                                                                               95

           point, signified as well as the words that no answer was the           “If Mr. Whitford should persist in refusing?”
           right answer. She could not dissent without turning his mu-            “So entirely one, that there never can be question of exter-
           sic to discord, his complacency to amazement. She held her         nal influences. I am, we will say, riding home from the hunt:
           tongue, knowing that he did not know her, and speculating          I see you awaiting me: I read your heart as though you were
           on the division made bare by their degrees of the knowledge,       beside me. And I know that I am coming to the one who
           a deep cleft.                                                      reads mine! You have me, you have me like an open book, you,
               He alluded to friends in her neighbourhood and his own.        and only you!”
           The bridesmaids were mentioned.                                        “I am to be always at home?” Clara said, unheeded, and
               “Miss Dale, you will hear from my aunt Eleanor, declines,      relieved by his not hearing.
           on the plea of indifferent health. She is rather a morbid per-         “Have you realized it?—that we are invulnerable! The
           son, with all her really estimable qualities. It will do no harm   world cannot hurt us: it cannot touch us. Felicity is ours, and
           to have none but young ladies of your own age; a bouquet of        we are impervious in the enjoyment of it. Something divine!
           young buds: though one blowing flower among them . . .             surely something divine on earth? Clara!—being to one an-
           However, she has decided. My principal annoyance has been          other that between which the world can never interpose! What
           Vernon’s refusal to act as my best man.”                           I do is right: what you do is right. Perfect to one another!
               “Mr. Whitford refuses?”                                        Each new day we rise to study and delight in new secrets.
               “He half refuses. I do not take no from him. His pretext is    Away with the crowd! We have not even to say it; we are in an
           a dislike to the ceremony.”                                        atmosphere where the world cannot breathe.”
               “I share it with him.”                                             “Oh, the world!” Clara partly carolled on a sigh that sunk
               “I sympathize with you. If we might say the words and          deep.
           pass from sight! There is a way of cutting off the world: I            Hearing him talk as one exulting on the mountain-top,
           have it at times completely: I lose it again, as if it were a      when she knew him to be in the abyss, was very strange, pro-
           cabalistic phrase one had to utter. But with you! You give it      vocative of scorn.
           me for good. It will he for ever, eternally, my Clara. Nothing         “My letters?” he said, incitingly.
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           can harm, nothing touch us; we are one another’s. Let the              “I read them.”
           world fight it out; we have nothing to do with it.”                    “Circumstances have imposed a long courtship on us, my
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           Clara; and I, perhaps lamenting the laws of decorum—I have               “We read of it. The world of the romance writer!”
           done so!—still felt the benefit of the gradual initiation. It is         “No: the living world. I am sure it is our duty to love it. I
           not good for women to be surprised by a sudden revelation of         am sure we weaken ourselves if we do not. If I did not, I
           man’s character. We also have things to learn—there is matter        should be looking on mist, hearing a perpetual boom instead
           for learning everywhere. Some day you will tell me the differ-       of music. I remember hearing Mr. Whitford say that cyni-
           ence of what you think of me now, from what you thought              cism is intellectual dandyism without the coxcomb’s feathers;
           when we first . . . ?”                                               and it seems to me that cynics are only happy in making the
               An impulse of double-minded acquiescence caused Clara            world as barren to others as they have made it for themselves.”
           to stammer as on a sob.                                                  “Old Vernon!” ejaculated Sir Willoughby, with a counte-
               “I—I daresay I shall.”                                           nance rather uneasy, as if it had been flicked with a glove. “He
               She added, “If it is necessary.”                                 strings his phrases by the dozen.”
               Then she cried out: “Why do you attack the world? You                “Papa contradicts that, and says he is very clever and very
           always make me pity it.”                                             simple.”
               He smiled at her youthfulness. “I have passed through that           “As to cynics, my dear Clara, oh, certainly, certainly: you
           stage. It leads to my sentiment. Pity it, by all means.”             are right. They are laughable, contemptible. But understand
               “No,” said she, “but pity it, side with it, not consider it so   me. I mean, we cannot feel, or if we feel we cannot so in-
           bad. The world has faults; glaciers have crevices, mountains         tensely feel, our oneness, except by dividing ourselves from
           have chasms; but is not the effect of the whole sublime? Not         the world.”
           to admire the mountain and the glacier because they can be               “Is it an art?”
           cruel, seems to me . . . And the world is beautiful.”                    “If you like. It is our poetry! But does not love shun the
               “The world of nature, yes. The world of men?”                    world? Two that love must have their sustenance in isola-
               “Yes.”                                                           tion.”
               “My love, I suspect you to be thinking of the world of               “No: they will be eating themselves up.”
           ballrooms.”                                                              “The purer the beauty, the more it will be out of the world.”
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               “I am thinking of the world that contains real and great             “But not opposed.”
           generosity, true heroism. We see it round us.”                           “Put it in this way,” Willoughby condescended. “Has ex-
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           98                                                                                                                                99

           perience the same opinion of the world as ignorance?”               had often meditated on the moral obligation of his unfolding
               “It should have more charity.”                                  to Clara the whole truth of his conduct to Constantia; for
               “Does virtue feel at home in the world?”                        whom, as for other suicides, there were excuses. He at least
               “Where it should be an example, to my idea.”                    was bound to supply them. She had behaved badly; but had
               “Is the world agreeable to holiness?”                           he not given her some cause? If so, manliness was bound to
               “Then, are you in favour of monasteries?”                       confess it.
               He poured a little runlet of half laughter over her head, of        Supposing Clara heard the world’s version first! Men whose
           the sound assumed by genial compassion.                             pride is their backbone suffer convulsions where other men
               It is irritating to hear that when we imagine we have spo-      are barely aware of a shock, and Sir Willoughby was taken
           ken to the point.                                                   with galvanic jumpings of the spirit within him, at the idea of
               “Now in my letters, Clara . . .”                                the world whispering to Clara that he had been jilted.
               “I have no memory, Willoughby!”                                     “My letters to men, you say, my love?”
               “You will, however, have observed that I am not completely          “Your letters of business.”
           myself in my letters . . .”                                             “Completely myself in my letters of business?” He stared
               “In your letters to men you may be.”                            indeed.
               The remark threw a pause across his thoughts. He was of a           She relaxed the tension of his figure by remarking: “You
           sensitiveness terribly tender. A single stroke on it reverberated   are able to express yourself to men as your meaning dictates.
           swellingly within the man, and most, and infuriately search-        In writing to . . . to us it is, I suppose, more difficult.”
           ing, at the spots where he had been wounded, especially where           “True, my love. I will not exactly say difficult. I can ac-
           he feared the world might have guessed the wound. Did she           knowledge no difficulty. Language, I should say, is not fitted
           imply that he had no hand for love-letters? Was it her mean-        to express emotion. Passion rejects it.”
           ing that women would not have much taste for his epistolary             “For dumb-show and pantomime?”
           correspondence? She had spoken in the plural, with an accent            “No; but the writing of it coldly.”
           on “men”. Had she heard of Constantia? Had she formed her               “Ah, coldly!”
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           own judgement about the creature? The supernatural sensi-               “My letters disappoint you?”
           tiveness of Sir Willoughby shrieked a peal of affirmatives. He          “I have not implied that they do.”
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           100                                                                                                                             101

               “My feelings, dearest, are too strong for transcription. I    under a sense of honour, acting under a sense of honour, would
           feel, pen in hand, like the mythological Titan at war with        have carried my engagement through.”
           Jove, strong enough to hurl mountains, and finding nothing            “What had you done?”
           but pebbles. The simile is a good one. You must not judge of          “The story is long, dating from an early day, in the ‘downy
           me by my letters.”                                                antiquity of my youth’, as Vernon says.”
               “I do not; I like them,” said Clara.                              “Mr. Whitford says that?”
               She blushed, eyed him hurriedly, and seeing him compla-           “One of old Vernon’s odd sayings. It’s a story of an early
           cent, resumed, “I prefer the pebble to the mountain; but if       fascination.”
           you read poetry you would not think human speech inca-                “Papa tells me Mr. Whitford speaks at times with wise
           pable of. . .”                                                    humour.”
               “My love, I detest artifice. Poetry is a profession.”             “Family considerations—the lady’s health among other
               “Our poets would prove to you . . .”                          things; her position in the calculations of relatives—inter-
               “As I have often observed, Clara, I am no poet.”              vened. Still there was the fascination. I have to own it. Grounds
               “I have not accused you, Willoughby.”                         for feminine jealousy.”
               “No poet, and with no wish to be a poet. Were I one, my           “Is it at an end?”
           life would supply material, I can assure you, my love. My             “Now? with you? my darling Clara! indeed at an end, or
           conscience is not entirely at rest. Perhaps the heaviest matter   could I have opened my inmost heart to you! Could I have
           troubling it is that in which I was least wilfully guilty. You    spoken of myself so unreservedly that in part you know me as
           have heard of a Miss Durham?”                                     I know myself! Oh, but would it have been possible to en-
               “I have heard—yes—of her.”                                    close you with myself in that intimate union? so secret, unas-
               “She may be happy. I trust she is. If she is not, I cannot    sailable!”
           escape some blame. An instance of the difference between              “You did not speak to her as you speak to me?”
           myself and the world, now. The world charges it upon her. I           “In no degree.”
           have interceded to exonerate her.”                                    “What could have! . . .” Clara checked the murmured ex-
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               “That was generous, Willoughby.”                              clamation.
               “Stay. I fear I was the primary offender. But I, Clara, I,        Sir Willoughby’s expoundings on his latest of texts would
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           102                                                                                                                               103

           have poured forth, had not a footman stepped across the lawn
           to inform him that his builder was in the laboratory and re-
           quested permission to consult with him.
               Clara’s plea of a horror of the talk of bricks and joists ex-
           cused her from accompanying him. He had hardly been sat-
           isfied by her manner, he knew not why. He left her, convinced
           that he must do and say more to reach down to her female
           intelligence.
               She saw young Crossjay, springing with pots of jam in
           him, join his patron at a bound, and taking a lift of arms, fly
           aloft, clapping heels. Her reflections were confused. Sir                                   Chapter 8.
           Willoughby was admirable with the lad. “Is he two men?” she                     A run with the truant; a walk with the master.
           thought; and the thought ensued, “Am I unjust?” She headed
           a run with young Crossjay to divert her mind.                           The sight of Miss Middleton running inflamed young
                                                                               Crossjay with the passion of the game of hare and hounds.
                                                                               He shouted a view-halloo, and flung up his legs. She was
                                                                               fleet; she ran as though a hundred little feet were bearing her
                                                                               onward smooth as water over the lawn and the sweeps of grass
                                                                               of the park, so swiftly did the hidden pair multiply one an-
                                                                               other to speed her. So sweet was she in her flowing pace, that
                                                                               the boy, as became his age, translated admiration into a dogged
                                                                               frenzy of pursuit, and continued pounding along, when far
                                                                               outstripped, determined to run her down or die. Suddenly
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                                                                               her flight wound to an end in a dozen twittering steps, and
                                                                               she sank. Young Crossjay attained her, with just breath enough
                                                                               to say: “You are a runner!”
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           104                                                                                                                           105

              “I forgot you had been having your tea, my poor boy,” said       Miss Middleton rebuked him, enjoying his wriggle be-
           she.                                                            tween a perception of her fun and an acknowledgment of his
              “And you don’t pant a bit!” was his encomium.                peccancy. She commanded him to tell her which was the glo-
              “Dear me, no; not more than a bird. You might as well try    rious Valentine’s day of our naval annals; the name of the
           to catch a bird.”                                               hero of the day, and the name of his ship. To these questions
              Young Crossjay gave a knowing nod. “Wait till I get my       his answers were as ready as the guns of the good ship Cap-
           second wind.”                                                   tain, for the Spanish four-decker.
              “Now you must confess that girls run faster than boys.”          “And that you owe to Mr. Whitford,” said Miss Middleton.
              “They may at the start.”                                         “He bought me the books,” young Crossjay growled, and
              “They do everything better.”                                 plucked at grass blades and bit them, foreseeing dimly but
              “They’re flash-in-the-pans.”                                 certainly the termination of all this.
              “They learn their lessons.”                                      Miss Middleton lay back on the grass and said: “Are you
              “You can’t make soldiers or sailors of them, though.”        going to be fond of me, Crossjay?”
              “And that is untrue. Have you never read of Mary Ambree?         The boy sat blinking. His desire was to prove to her that
           and Mistress Hannah Snell of Pondicherry? And there was         lie was immoderately fond of her already; and he might have
           the bride of the celebrated William Taylor. And what do you     flown at her neck had she been sitting up, but her recum-
           say to Joan of Arc? What do you say to Boadicea? I suppose      bency and eyelids half closed excited wonder in him and awe.
           you have never heard of the Amazons.”                           His young heart beat fast.
              “They weren’t English.”                                          “Because, my dear boy,” she said, leaning on her elbow,
              “Then it is your own countrywomen you decry, sir!”           “you are a very nice boy, but an ungrateful boy, and there is
              Young Crossjay betrayed anxiety about his false position,    no telling whether you will not punish any one who cares for
           and begged for the stories of Mary Ambree and the others        you. Come along with me; pluck me some of these cowslips,
           who were English.                                               and the speedwells near them; I think we both love wild-
              “See, you will not read for yourself, you hide and play      flowers.” She rose and took his arm. “You shall row me on the
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           truant with Mr. Whitford, and the consequence is you are        lake while I talk to you seriously.”
           ignorant of your country’s history.”                                It was she, however, who took the sculls at the boat-house,
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           106                                                                                                                             107

           for she had been a playfellow with boys, and knew that one of         “And for that you do as he bids you? And he indulges you
           them engaged in a manly exercise is not likely to listen to a     because you . . . Well, but though Mr. Whitford does not
           woman.                                                            give you money, he gives you his time, he tries to get you into
               “Now, Crossjay,” she said. Dense gloom overcame him like      the navy.”
           a cowl. She bent across her hands to laugh. “As if I were going       “He pays for me.”
           to lecture you, you silly boy!” He began to brighten dubi-            “What do you say?”
           ously. “I used to be as fond of birdsnesting as you are. I like       “My keep. And, as for liking him, if he were at the bottom
           brave boys, and I like you for wanting to enter the Royal         of the water here, I’d go down after him. I mean to learn.
           Navy. Only, how can you if you do not learn? You must get         We’re both of us here at six o’clock in the morning, when it’s
           the captains to pass you, you know. Somebody spoils you:          light, and have a swim. He taught me. Only, I never cared for
           Miss Dale or Mr. Whitford.”                                       schoolbooks.”
               “Do they?” sung out young Crossjay.                               “Are you quite certain that Mr. Whitford pays for you.”
               “Sir Willoughby does?”                                            “My father told me he did, and I must obey him. He
               “I don’t know about spoil. I can come round him.”             heard my father was poor, with a family. He went down to see
               “I am sure he is very kind to you. I dare say you think Mr.   my father. My father came here once, and Sir Willoughby
           Whitford rather severe. You should remember he has to teach       wouldn’t see him. I know Mr. Whitford does. And Miss Dale
           you, so that you may pass for the navy. You must not dislike      told me he did. My mother says she thinks he does it to make
           him because he makes you work. Supposing you had blown            up to us for my father’s long walk in the rain and the cold he
           yourself up to-day! You would have thought it better to have      caught coming here to Patterne.”
           been working with Mr. Whitford.”                                      “So you see you should not vex him, Crossjay. He is a
               “Sir Willoughby says, when he’s married, you won’t let me     good friend to your father and to you. You ought to love him.”
           hide.”                                                                “I like him, and I like his face.”
               “Ah! It is wrong to pet a big boy like you. Does not he           “Why his face?”
           what you call tip you, Crossjay?”                                     “It’s not like those faces! Miss Dale and I talk about him.
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               “Generally half-crown pieces. I’ve had a crown-piece. I’ve    She thinks that Sir Willoughby is the best-looking man ever
           had sovereigns.”                                                  born.”
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           108                                                                                                                              109

               “Were you not speaking of Mr. Whitford?”                           “Mr. Whitford! Yes; not petting, I hope. I tried to give
               “Yes; old Vernon. That’s what Sir Willoughby calls him,”       him a lecture. He’s a dear lad, but, I fancy, trying.”
           young Crossjay excused himself to her look of surprise. “Do            She was in fine sunset colour, unable to arrest the mount-
           you know what he makes me think of?—his eyes, I mean. He           ing tide. She had been rowing, she said; and, as he directed
           makes me think of Robinson Crusoe’s old goat in the cavern.        his eyes, according to his wont, penetratingly, she defended
           I like him because he’s always the same, and you’re not posi-      herself by fixing her mind on Robinson Crusoe’s old goat in
           tive about some people. Miss Middleton, if you look on at          the recess of the cavern.
           cricket, in comes a safe man for ten runs. He may get more,            “I must have him away from here very soon,” said Vernon.
           and he never gets less; and you should hear the old farmers        “Here he’s quite spoiled. Speak of him to Willoughby. I can’t
           talk of him in the booth. That’s just my feeling.”                 guess at his ideas of the boy’s future, but the chance of pass-
               Miss Middleton understood that some illustration from          ing for the navy won’t bear trifling with, and if ever there was
           the cricketing-field was intended to throw light on the boy’s      a lad made for the navy, it’s Crossjay.”
           feeling for Mr. Whitford. Young Crossjay was evidently warm-           The incident of the explosion in the laboratory was new
           ing to speak from his heart. But the sun was low, she had to       to Vernon.
           dress for the dinner-table, and she landed him with regret, as         “And Willoughby laughed?” he said. “There are sea-port
           at a holiday over. Before they parted, he offered to swim across   crammers who stuff young fellows for examination, and we
           the lake in his clothes, or dive to the bed for anything she       shall have to pack off the boy at once to the best one of the lot
           pleased to throw, declaring solemnly that it should not he         we can find. I would rather have had him under me up to the
           lost.                                                              last three months, and have made sure of some roots to what
               She walked back at a slow pace, and sung to herself above      is knocked into his head. But he’s ruined here. And I am
           her darker-flowing thoughts, like the reed-warbler on the          going. So I shall not trouble him for many weeks longer. Dr.
           branch beside the night-stream; a simple song of a lighthearted    Middleton is well?”
           sound, independent of the shifting black and grey of the flood         “My father is well, yes. He pounced like a falcon on your
           underneath.                                                        notes in the library.”
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               A step was at her heels.                                           Vernon came out with a chuckle.
               “I see you have been petting my scapegrace.”                       “They were left to attract him. I am in for a controversy.”
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           110                                                                                                                             111

               “Papa will not spare you, to judge from his look.”                “We are well off for wild flowers here,” he answered.
               “I know the look.”                                                “Do not leave him, Mr. Whitford.”
               “Have you walked far to-day?”                                     “He will not want me.”
               “Nine and a half hours. My Flibbertigibbet is too much            “You are devoted to him.”
           for me at times, and I had to walk off my temper.”                    “I can’t pretend that.”
               She cast her eyes on him, thinking of the pleasure of deal-       “Then it is the changes you imagine you foresee . . . If any
           ing with a temper honestly coltish, and manfully open to a        occur, why should they drive you away?”
           specific.                                                             “Well, I’m two and thirty, and have never been in the fray:
               “All those hours were required?”                              a kind of nondescript, half scholar, and by nature half billman
               “Not quite so long.”                                          or bowman or musketeer; if I’m worth anything, London’s
               “You are training for your Alpine tour.”                      the field for me. But that’s what I have to try.”
               “It’s doubtful whether I shall get to the Alps this year. I       “Papa will not like your serving with your pen in London:
           leave the Hall, and shall probably be in London with a pen to     he will say you are worth too much for that.”
           sell.”                                                                “Good men are at it; I should not care to be ranked above
               “Willoughby knows that you leave him?”                        them.”
               “As much as Mont Blanc knows that he is going to be               “They are wasted, he says.”
           climbed by a party below. He sees a speck or two in the val-          “Error! If they have their private ambition, they may sup-
           ley.”                                                             pose they are wasted. But the value to the world of a private
               “He has not spoken of it.”                                    ambition, I do not clearly understand.”
               “He would attribute it to changes . . .”                          “You have not an evil opinion of the world?” said Miss
               Vernon did not conclude the sentence.                         Middleton, sick at heart as she spoke, with the sensation of
               She became breathless, without emotion, but checked by        having invited herself to take a drop of poison.
           the barrier confronting an impulse to ask, what changes? She          He replied: “One might as well have an evil opinion of a
           stooped to pluck a cowslip.                                       river: here it’s muddy, there it’s clear; one day troubled, an-
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               “I saw daffodils lower down the park,” she said. “One or      other at rest. We have to treat it with common sense.”
           two; they’re nearly over.”                                            “Love it?”
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           112                                                                                                                               113

                “In the sense of serving it.”                                  he could scarcely be said to shine in a drawingroom, unless
                “Not think it beautiful?”                                      when seated beside a person ready for real talk. Even more
                “Part of it is, part of it the reverse.”                       than his merits, his demerits pointed him out as a man to be
                “Papa would quote the ‘mulier formosa’”.                       a friend to a young woman who wanted one. His way of life
                “Except that ‘fish’ is too good for the black extremity.       pictured to her troubled spirit an enviable smoothness; and
           ‘Woman’ is excellent for the upper.”                                his having achieved that smooth way she considered a sign of
                “How do you say that?—not cynically, I believe. Your view      strength; and she wished to lean in idea upon some friendly
           commends itself to my reason.”                                      strength. His reputation for indifference to the frivolous charms
                She was grateful to him for not stating it in ideal contrast   of girls clothed him with a noble coldness, and gave him the
           with Sir Willoughby’s view. If he had, so intensely did her         distinction of a far-seen solitary iceberg in Southern waters.
           youthful blood desire to be enamoured of the world, that she        The popular notion of hereditary titled aristocracy resembles
           felt he would have lifted her off her feet. For a moment a gulf     her sentiment for a man that would not flatter and could not
           beneath had been threatening. When she said, “Love it?” a           be flattered by her sex: he appeared superior almost to awful-
           little enthusiasm would have wafted her into space fierily as       ness. She was young, but she had received much flattery in
           wine; but the sober, “In the sense of serving it”, entered her      her ears, and by it she had been snared; and he, disdaining to
           brain, and was matter for reflection upon it and him.               practise the fowler’s arts or to cast a thought on small fowls,
                She could think of him in pleasant liberty, uncorrected by     appeared to her to have a pride founded on natural loftiness.
           her woman’s instinct of peril. He had neither arts nor graces;          They had not spoken for awhile, when Vernon said abruptly,
           nothing of his cousin’s easy social front-face. She had once        “The boy’s future rather depends on you, Miss Middleton. I
           witnessed the military precision of his dancing, and had to         mean to leave as soon as possible, and I do not like his being
           learn to like him before she ceased to pray that she might          here without me, though you will look after him, I have no
           never be the victim of it as his partner. He walked heroically,     doubt. But you may not at first see where the spoiling hurts
           his pedestrian vigour being famous, but that means one who          him. He should be packed off at once to the crammer, before
           walks away from the sex, not excelling in the recreations where     you are Lady Patterne. Use your influence. Willoughby will
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           men and women join hands. He was not much of a horseman             support the lad at your request. The cost cannot be great.
           either. Sir Willoughby enjoyed seeing him on horseback. And         There are strong grounds against my having him in London,
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           114                                                                                                                              115

           even if I could manage it. May I count on you?”                        “What is to become of him if he learns nothing?”
               “I will mention it: I will do my best,” said Miss Middleton,       “If he pleases me, he will be provided for. I have never
           strangely dejected.                                                abandoned a dependent.”
               They were now on the lawn, where Sir Willoughby was                Clara let her eyes rest on his and, without turning or drop-
           walking with the ladies Eleanor and Isabel, his maiden aunts.      ping, shut them.
               “You seem to have coursed the hare and captured the hart.”         The effect was discomforting to him. He was very sensi-
           he said to his bride.                                              tive to the intentions of eyes and tones; which was one secret
               “Started the truant and run down the paedagogue,” said         of his rigid grasp of the dwellers in his household. They were
           Vernon.                                                            taught that they had to render agreement under sharp scru-
               “Ay, you won’t listen to me about the management of that       tiny. Studious eyes, devoid of warmth, devoid of the shyness
           boy,” Sir Willoughby retorted.                                     of sex, that suddenly closed on their look, signified a want of
               The ladies embraced Miss Middleton. One offered up an          comprehension of some kind, it might be hostility of under-
           ejaculation in eulogy of her looks, the other of her healthful-    standing. Was it possible he did not possess her utterly? He
           ness: then both remarked that with indulgence young Crossjay       frowned up.
           could be induced to do anything. Clara wondered whether                Clara saw the lift of his brows, and thought, “My mind is
           inclination or Sir Willoughby had disciplined their individu-      my own, married or not.”
           ality out of them and made them his shadows, his echoes. She           It was the point in dispute.
           gazed from them to him, and feared him. But as yet she had
           not experienced the power in him which could threaten and
           wrestle to subject the members of his household to the state
           of satellites. Though she had in fact been giving battle to it
           for several months, she had held her own too well to perceive
           definitely the character of the spirit opposing her.
               She said to the ladies, “Ah, no! Mr. Whitford has chosen
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           the only method for teaching a boy like Crossjay.”
               “I propose to make a man of him,” said Sir Willoughby.
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           116                                                                                                                            117

                                                                            wood-hyacinths; and rising out of the blue was a branch bear-
                                                                            ing thick white blossom, so thick, and of so pure a whiteness,
                                                                            that Miss Middleton, while praising Crossjay for soliciting
                                                                            the aid of Miss Dale, was at a loss to name the tree.
                                                                                “It is a gardener’s improvement on the Vestal of the forest,
                                                                            the wild cherry,” said Dr. Middleton, “and in this case we may
                                                                            admit the gardener’s claim to be valid, though I believe that,
                                                                            with his gift of double blossom, he has improved away the
                                                                            fruit. Call this the Vestal of civilization, then; he has at least
                                                                            done something to vindicate the beauty of the office as well
                                Chapter 9.                                  as the justness of the title.”
                      Clara and Laetitia meet: they are compared.               “It is Vernon’s Holy Tree the young rascal has been de-
                                                                            spoiling,” said Sir Willoughby merrily.
              An hour before the time for lessons next morning young            Miss Middleton was informed that this double-blossom
           Crossjay was on the lawn with a big bunch of wild flowers.       wild cherry-tree was worshipped by Mr. Whitford.
           He left them at the hall door for Miss Middleton, and van-           Sir Willoughby promised he would conduct her to it.
           ished into bushes.                                                   “You,” he said to her, “can bear the trial; few complexions
              These vulgar weeds were about to be dismissed to the          can; it is to most ladies a crueller test than snow. Miss Dale,
           dustheap by the great officials of the household; but as it      for example, becomes old lace within a dozen yards of it. I
           happened that Miss Middleton had seen them from the win-         should like to place her under the tree beside you.”
           dow in Crossjay’s hands, the discovery was made that they            “Dear me, though; but that is investing the hamadryad
           were indeed his presentation-bouquet, and a footman received     with novel and terrible functions,” exclaimed Dr. Middleton.
           orders to place them before her. She was very pleased. The           Clara said: “Miss Dale could drag me into a superior Court
                                                                            to show me fading beside her in gifts more valuable than a
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           arrangement of the flowers bore witness to fairer fingers than
           the boy’s own in the disposition of the rings of colour, red     complexion.”
           campion and anemone, cowslip and speedwell, primroses and            “She has a fine ability,” said Vernon.
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           118                                                                                                                               119

               All the world knew, so Clara knew of Miss Dales romantic        the eulogistic phrase had been pronounced by him with an
           admiration of Sir Willoughby; she was curious to see Miss           impressiveness to make his ear aware of an echo.
           Dale and study the nature of a devotion that might be, within           Sir Willoughby dispersed her vapourish confusion. “Ex-
           reason, imitable—for a man who could speak with such steely         actly,” he said. “I have insisted with Vernon, I don’t know how
           coldness of the poor lady he had fascinated? Well, perhaps it       often, that you must have the lad by his affections. He won’t
           was good for the hearts of women to be beneath a frost; to be       bear driving. It had no effect on me. Boys of spirit kick at it.
           schooled, restrained, turned inward on their dreams. Yes, then,     I think I know boys, Clara.”
           his coldness was desireable; it encouraged an ideal of him. It          He found himself addressing eyes that regarded him as
           suggested and seemed to propose to Clara’s mind the divineness      though he were a small speck, a pin’s head, in the circle of
           of separation instead of the deadly accuracy of an intimate         their remote contemplation. They were wide; they closed.
           perusal. She tried to look on him as Miss Dale might look,              She opened them to gaze elsewhere.
           and while partly despising her for the dupery she envied, and           He was very sensitive.
           more than criticizing him for the inhuman numbness of sen-              Even then, when knowingly wounding him, or because of
           timent which offered up his worshipper to point a compli-           it, she was trying to climb back to that altitude of the thin
           mentary comparison, she was able to imagine a distance              division of neutral ground, from which we see a lover’s faults
           whence it would be possible to observe him uncritically, kindly,    and are above them, pure surveyors. She climbed unsuccess-
           admiringly; as the moon a handsome mortal, for example.             fully, it is true; soon despairing and using the effort as a pre-
               In the midst of her thoughts, she surprised herself by say-     text to fall back lower.
           ing: “I certainly was difficult to instruct. I might see things         Dr. Middleton withdrew Sir Willoughby’s attention from
           clearer if I had a fine ability. I never remember to have been      the imperceptible annoyance. “No, sir, no: the birch! the birch!
           perfectly pleased with my immediate lesson . . .”                   Boys of spirit commonly turn into solid men, and the solider
               She stopped, wondering whither her tongue was leading           the men the more surely do they vote for Busby. For me, I
           her; then added, to save herself, “And that may be why I feel       pray he may be immortal in Great Britain. Sea-air nor moun-
           for poor Crossjay.”                                                 tain-air is half so bracing. I venture to say that the power to
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               Mr. Whitford apparently did not think it remarkable that        take a licking is better worth having than the power to ad-
           she should have been set off gabbling of “a fine ability”, though   minister one. Horse him and birch him if Crossjay runs from
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           120                                                                                                                               121

           his books.”                                                             She sighed and put a tooth on her under-lip. The gift of
               “It is your opinion, sir?” his host bowed to him affably,       humourous fancy is in women fenced round with forbidding
           shocked on behalf of the ladies.                                    placards; they have to choke it; if they perceive a piece of
               “So positively so, sir, that I will undertake, without knowl-   humour, for instance, the young Willoughby grasped by his
           edge of their antecedents, to lay my finger on the men in           master,—and his horrified relatives rigid at the sight of prepa-
           public life who have not had early Busby. They are ill-bal-         rations for the seed of sacrilege, they have to blindfold the
           anced men. Their seat of reason is not a concrete. They won’t       mind’s eye. They are society’s hard-drilled soldiery. Prussians
           take rough and smooth as they come. They make bad blood,            that must both march and think in step. It is for the advan-
           can’t forgive, sniff right and left for approbation, and are ex-    tage of the civilized world, if you like, since men have decreed
           cited to anger if an East wind does not flatter them. Why, sir,     it, or matrons have so read the decree; but here and there a
           when they have grown to be seniors, you find these men mixed        younger woman, haply an uncorrected insurgent of the sex
           up with the nonsense of their youth; you see they are               matured here and there, feels that her lot was cast with her
           unthrashed. We English beat the world because we take a             head in a narrower pit than her limbs.
           licking well. I hold it for a surety of a proper sweetness of           Clara speculated as to whether Miss Dale might be per-
           blood.”                                                             chance a person of a certain liberty of mind. She asked for
               The smile of Sir Willoughby waxed ever softer as the shakes     some little, only some little, free play of mind in a house that
           of his head increased in contradictoriness. “And yet,” said he,     seemed to wear, as it were, a cap of iron. Sir Willoughby not
           with the air of conceding a little after having answered the        merely ruled, he throned, he inspired: and how? She had no-
           Rev. Doctor and convicted him of error, “Jack requires it to        ticed an irascible sensitiveness in him alert against a shadow
           keep him in order. On board ship your argument may apply.           of disagreement; and as he was kind when perfectly appeased,
           Not, I suspect, among gentlemen. No.”                               the sop was offered by him for submission. She noticed that
               “Good-night to you, gentlemen!” said Dr. Middleton.             even Mr. Whitford forbore to alarm the sentiment of author-
               Clara heard Miss Eleanor and Miss Isabel interchange re-        ity in his cousin. If he did not breathe Sir Willoughby, like
           marks:                                                              the ladies Eleanor and Isabel, he would either acquiesce in a
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               “Willoughby would not have suffered it!”                        syllable or he silent. He never strongly dissented. The habit
               “It would entirely have altered him!”                           of the house, with its iron cap, was on him, as it was on the
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           122                                                                                                                              123

           servants, and would be, oh, shudders of the shipwrecked that           “But, Miss Dale, I love him so well that I shall consult his
           see their end in drowning! on the wife.                            interests and not my own selfishness. And, if I have influ-
              “When do I meet Miss Dale?” she inquired.                       ence, he will not be a week with you longer. It should have
              “This very evening, at dinner,” replied Sir Willoughby.         been spoke of to-day; I must have been in some dream; I
              Then, thought she, there is that to look forward to.            thought of it, I know. I will not forget to do what may be in
              She indulged her morbid fit, and shut up her senses that        my power.”
           she might live in the anticipation of meeting Miss Dale; and,          Clara’s heart sank at the renewed engagement and plight-
           long before the approach of the hour, her hope of encounter-       ing of herself involved in her asking a favour, urging any sort
           ing any other than another dull adherent of Sir Willoughby         of petition. The cause was good. Besides, she was plighted
           had fled. So she was languid for two of the three minutes          already.
           when she sat alone with Laetitia in the drawing-room before            “Sir Willoughby is really fond of the boy,” she said.
           the rest had assembled.                                                “He is fond of exciting fondness in the boy,” said Miss
              “It is Miss Middleton?” Laetitia said, advancing to her.        Dale. “He has not dealt much with children. I am sure he
           “My jealousy tells me; for you have won my boy Crossjay’s          likes Crossjay; he could not otherwise be so forbearing; it is
           heart, and done more to bring him to obedience in a few            wonderful what he endures and laughs at.”
           minutes than we have been able to do in months.”                       Sir Willoughby entered. The presence of Miss Dale illu-
              “His wild flowers were so welcome to me,” said Clara.           minated him as the burning taper lights up consecrated plate.
              “He was very modest over them. And I mention it because         Deeply respecting her for her constancy, esteeming her for a
           boys of his age usually thrust their gifts in our faces fresh as   model of taste, he was never in her society without that happy
           they pluck them, and you were to be treated quite differ-          consciousness of shining which calls forth the treasures of the
           ently.”                                                            man; and these it is no exaggeration to term unbounded, when
              “We saw his good fairy’s hand.”                                 all that comes from him is taken for gold.
              “She resigns her office; but I pray you not to love him too         The effect of the evening on Clara was to render her dis-
           well in return; for he ought to be away reading with one of        trustful of her later antagonism. She had unknowingly passed
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           those men who get boys through their examinations. He is,          into the spirit of Miss Dale, Sir Willoughby aiding; for she
           we all think, a born sailor, and his place is in the navy.”        could sympathize with the view of his constant admirer on
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           124                                                                                                                                  125

           seeing him so cordially and smoothly gay; as one may say,             half-dropped eyelids too palpably assumed superiority.
           domestically witty, the most agreeable form of wit. Mrs               “Willoughby, I want to speak,” she said, and shrank as she
           Mountstuart Jenkinson discerned that he had a leg of physi-           spoke, lest he should immediately grant everything in the
           cal perfection; Miss Dale distinguished it in him in the vital        mood of courtship, and invade her respite; “I want to speak of
           essence; and before either of these ladies he was not simply a        that dear boy Crossjay. You are fond of him. He is rather an
           radiant, he was a productive creature, so true it is that praise is   idle boy here, and wasting time . . .”
           our fructifying sun. He had even a touch of the romantic air              “Now you are here, and when you are here for good, my
           which Clara remembered as her first impression of the favourite       love for good . . .” he fluttered away in loverliness, forgetful of
           of the county; and strange she found it to observe this resus-        Crossjay, whom he presently took up. “The boy recognizes
           citated idea confronting her experience. What if she had been         his most sovereign lady, and will do your bidding, though
           captious, inconsiderate? Oh, blissful revival of the sense of         you should order him to learn his lessons! Who would not
           peace! The happiness of pain departing was all that she looked        obey? Your beauty alone commands. But what is there be-
           for, and her conception of liberty was to learn to love her           yond?—a grace, a hue divine, that sets you not so much above
           chains, provided that he would spare her the caress. In this          as apart, severed from the world.”
           mood she sternly condemned Constantia. “We must try to                    Clara produced an active smile in duty, and pursued: “If
           do good; we must not be thinking of ourselves; we must make           Crossjay were sent at once to some house where men prepare
           the best of our path in life.” She revolved these infantile pre-      boys to pass for the navy, he would have his chance, and the
           cepts with humble earnestness; and not to be tardy in her             navy is distinctly his profession. His father is a brave man,
           striving to do good, with a remote but pleasurable glimpse of         and he inherits bravery, and he has a passion for a sailor’s life;
           Mr. Whitford hearing of it, she took the opportunity to speak         only he must be able to pass his examination, and he has not
           to Sir Willoughby on the subject of young Crossjay, at a              much time.”
           moment when, alighting from horseback, he had shown him-                  Sir Willoughby gave a slight laugh in sad amusement.
           self to advantage among a gallant cantering company. He                   “My dear Clara, you adore the world; and I suppose you
           showed to great advantage on horseback among men, being               have to learn that there is not a question in this wrangling
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           invariably the best mounted, and he had a cavalierly style,           world about which we have not disputes and contests ad nau-
           possibly cultivated, but effective. On foot his raised head and       seam. I have my notions concerning Crossjay, Vernon has his.
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           126                                                                                                                               127

           I should wish to make a gentleman of him. Vernon marks              of the son than I behold in the father: and seeing that life
           him for a sailor. But Vernon is the lad’s protector, I am not.      from an early age on board ship has anything but made a
           Vernon took him from his father to instruct him, and he has         gentleman of the father, I hold that I am right in shaping
           a right to say what shall be done with him. I do not interfere.     another course for the son.”
           Only I can’t prevent the lad from liking me. Old Vernon seems          “Naval officers . . .” Clara suggested.
           to feel it. I assure you I hold entirely aloof. If I am asked, in      “Some,” said Willoughby. “But they must be men of birth,
           spite of my disapproval of Vernon’s plans for the boy, to sub-      coming out of homes of good breeding. Strip them of the
           scribe to his departure, I can but shrug, because, as you see, I    halo of the title of naval officers, and I fear you would not
           have never opposed. Old Vernon pays for him, he is the mas-         often say gentlemen when they step into a drawing-room. I
           ter, he decides, and if Crossjay is blown from the masthead in      went so far as to fancy I had some claim to make young Crossjay
           a gale, the blame does not fall on me. These, my dear, are          something different. It can be done: the Patterne comes out
           matters of reason.”                                                 in his behaviour to you, my love; it can be done. But if I take
               “I would not venture to intrude on them,” said Clara, “if I     him, I claim undisputed sway over him. I cannot make a gentle-
           had not suspected that money . . .”                                 man of the fellow if I am to compete with this person and
               “Yes,” cried Willoughby; “and it is a part. And let old         that. In fine, he must look up to me, he must have one model.”
           Vernon surrender the boy to me, I will immediately relieve             “Would you, then, provide for him subsequently?”
           him of the burden on his purse. Can I do that, my dear, for            “According to his behaviour.”
           the furtherance of a scheme I condemn? The point is thus:              “Would not that be precarious for him?”
           latterly I have invited Captain Patterne to visit me: just pre-        “More so than the profession you appear inclined to choose
           vious to his departure for the African Coast, where Govern-         for him?”
           ment despatches Marines when there is no other way of kill-            “But there he would be under clear regulations.”
           ing them, I sent him a special invitation. He thanked me and           “With me he would have to respond to affection.”
           curtly declined. The man, I may almost say, is my pensioner.           “Would you secure to him a settled income? For an idle
           Well, he calls himself a Patterne, he is undoubtedly a man of       gentleman is bad enough; a penniless gentleman . . .”
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           courage, he has elements of our blood, and the name. I think           “He has only to please me, my dear, and he will be launched
           I am to be approved for desiring to make a better gentleman         and protected.”
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           128                                                                                                                            129

               “But if he does not succeed in pleasing you?”                Literature: rank gambling, as I told him. Londonizing can do
               “Is it so difficult?”                                        him no good. I thought that nonsense of his was over years
               “Oh!” Clara fretted.                                         ago. What is it he has from me?—about a hundred and fifty
               “You see, my love, I answer you,” said Sir Willoughby.       a year: and it might be doubled for the asking: and all the
               He resumed: “But let old Vernon have his trial with the      books he requires: and these writers and scholars no sooner
           lad. He has his own ideas. Let him carry them out. I shall       think of a book than they must have it. And do not suppose
           watch the experiment.”                                           me to complain. I am a man who will not have a single shil-
               Clara was for abandoning her task in sheer faintness.        ling expended by those who serve immediately about my per-
               “Is not the question one of money?” she said, shyly, know-   son. I confess to exacting that kind of dependency. Feudalism
           ing Mr. Whitford to be poor.                                     is not an objectionable thing if you can be sure of the lord.
               “Old Vernon chooses to spend his money that way.” re-        You know, Clara, and you should know me in my weakness
           plied Sir Willoughby. “If it saves him from breaking his shins   too, I do not claim servitude, I stipulate for affection. I claim
           and risking his neck on his Alps, we may consider it well        to be surrounded by persons loving me. And with one? . . .
           employed.”                                                       dearest! So that we two can shut out the world; we live what
               “Yes,” Clara’s voice occupied a pause.                       is the dream of others. Nothing imaginable can be sweeter. It
               She seized her languor as it were a curling snake and cast   is a veritable heaven on earth. To be the possessor of the whole
           it off. “But I understand that Mr. Whitford wants your assis-    of you! Your thoughts, hopes, all.”
           tance. Is he not—not rich? When he leaves the Hall to try            Sir Willoughby intensified his imagination to conceive
           his fortune in literature in London, he may not be so well       more: he could not, or could not express it, and pursued:
           able to support Crossjay and obtain the instruction necessary    “But what is this talk of Vernon’s leaving me? He cannot leave.
           for the boy: and it would be generous to help him.”              He has barely a hundred a year of his own. You see, I consider
               “Leaves the Hall!” exclaimed Willoughby. “I have not heard   him. I do not speak of the ingratitude of the wish to leave.
           a word of it. He made a bad start at the beginning, and I        You know, my dear, I have a deadly abhorrence of partings
           should have thought that would have tamed him: had to throw      and such like. As far as I can, I surround myself with healthy
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           over his Fellowship; ahem. Then he received a small legacy       people specially to guard myself from having my feelings
           some time back, and wanted to be off to push his luck in         wrung; and excepting Miss Dale, whom you like—my dar-
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           130                                                                                                                              131

           ling does like her?”—the answer satisfied him; “with that one           “I put forth no pretensions to perfection,” Sir Willoughby
           exception, I am not aware of a case that threatens to torment      continued. “I can bear a considerable amount of provocation;
           me. And here is a man, under no compulsion, talking of leav-       still I can be offended, and I am unforgiving when I have
           ing the Hall! In the name of goodness, why? But why? Am I          been offended. Speak to Vernon, if a natural occasion should
           to imagine that the sight of perfect felicity distresses him?      spring up. I shall, of course, have to speak to him. You may,
           We are told that the world is ‘desperately wicked’. I do not       Clara, have observed a man who passed me on the road as we
           like to think it of my friends; yet otherwise their conduct is     were cantering home, without a hint of a touch to his hat.
           often hard to account for.”                                        That man is a tenant of mine, farming six hundred acres,
               “If it were true, you would not punish Crossjay?” Clara        Hoppner by name: a man bound to remember that I have,
           feebly interposed.                                                 independently of my position, obliged him frequently. His
               “I should certainly take Crossjay and make a man of him        lease of my ground has five years to run. I must say I detest
           after my own model, my dear. But who spoke to you of this?”        the churlishness of our country population, and where it comes
               “Mr. Whitford himself. And let me give you my opinion,         across me I chastise it. Vernon is a different matter: he will
           Willoughby, that he will take Crossjay with him rather than        only require to be spoken to. One would fancy the old fellow
           leave him, if there is a fear of the boy’s missing his chance of   laboured now and then under a magnetic attraction to beg-
           the navy.”                                                         gary. My love,” he bent to her and checked their pacing up
               “Marines appear to be in the ascendant,” said Sir              and down, “you are tired?”
           Willoughby, astonished at the locution and pleading in the              “I am very tired to-day,” said Clara.
           interests of a son of one. “Then Crossjay he must take. I can-          His arm was offered. She laid two fingers on it, and they
           not accept half the boy. I am,” he laughed, “the legitimate        dropped when he attempted to press them to his rib.
           claimant in the application for judgement before the wise               He did not insist. To walk beside her was to share in the
           king. Besides, the boy has a dose of my blood in him; he has       stateliness of her walking.
           none of Vernon’s, not one drop.”                                        He placed himself at a corner of the door-way for her to
               “Ah!”                                                          pass him into the house, and doated on her cheek, her ear, and
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               “You see, my love?”                                            the softly dusky nape of her neck, where this way and that the
               “Oh, I do see; yes.”                                           little lighter-coloured irreclaimable curls running truant from
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           132                                                                                                                              133

           the comb and the knot—curls, half-curls, root-curls, vine-
           ringlets, wedding-rings, fledgling feathers, tufts of down,
           blown wisps—waved or fell, waved over or up or involutedly,
           or strayed, loose and downward, in the form of small silken
           paws, hardly any of them much thicker than a crayon shad-
           ing, cunninger than long round locks of gold to trick the heart.
              Laetitia had nothing to show resembling such beauty.




                                                                                                    Chapter 10.
                                                                                             In which Sir Willoughby chances to supply
                                                                                                       the title for himself.

                                                                                  Now Vernon was useful to his cousin; he was the accom-
                                                                              plished secretary of a man who governed his estate shrewdly
                                                                              and diligently, but had been once or twice unlucky in his
                                                                              judgements pronounced from the magisterial bench as a jus-
                                                                              tice of the Peace, on which occasions a half column of tren-
                                                                              chant English supported by an apposite classical quotation
                                                                              impressed Sir Willoughby with the value of such a secretary
                                                                              in a controversy. He had no fear of that fiery dragon of scorch-
                                                                              ing breath—the newspaper press—while Vernon was his right
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                                                                              hand man; and as he intended to enter Parliament, he fore-
                                                                              saw the greater need of him. Furthermore, he liked his cousin
                                                                              to date his own controversial writings, on classical subjects,
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           134                                                                                                                             135

           from Patterne Hall. It caused his house to shine in a foreign     him. A servant that gave warning partook of a certain fiend-
           field; proved the service of scholarship by giving it a flavour   ishness. Vernon’s project of leaving the Hall offended and
           of a bookish aristocracy that, though not so well worth hav-      alarmed the sensitive gentleman. “I shall have to hand Letty
           ing, and indeed in itself contemptible, is above the material     Dale to him at last!” he thought, yielding in bitter generosity
           and titular; one cannot quite say how. There, however, is the     to the conditions imposed on him by the ungenerousness of
           flavour. Dainty sauces are the life, the nobility, of famous      another. For, since his engagement to Miss Middleton, his
           dishes; taken alone, the former would be nauseating, the lat-     electrically forethoughtful mind had seen in Miss Dale, if she
           ter plebeian. It is thus, or somewhat so, when you have a poet,   stayed in the neighbourhood, and remained unmarried, the
           still better a scholar, attached to your household. Sir           governess of his infant children, often consulting with him.
           Willoughby deserved to have him, for he was above his county      But here was a prospect dashed out. The two, then, may marry,
           friends in his apprehension of the flavour bestowed by the        and live in a cottage on the borders of his park; and Vernon
           man; and having him, he had made them conscious of their          can retain his post, and Laetitia her devotion. The risk of her
           deficiency. His cook, M. Dehors, pupil of the great Godefroy,     casting it of had to be faced. Marriage has been known to
           was not the only French cook in the county; but his cousin        have such an effect on the most faithful of women that a
           and secretary, the rising scholar, the elegant essayist, was an   great passion fades to naught in their volatile bosoms when
           unparalleled decoration; of his kind, of course. Personally, we   they have taken a husband. We see in women especially the
           laugh at him; you had better not, unless you are fain to show     triumph of the animal over the spiritual. Nevertheless, risks
           that the higher world of polite literature is unknown to you.     must be run for a purpose in view.
           Sir Willoughby could create an abject silence at a county             Having no taste for a discussion with Vernon, whom it
           dinner-table by an allusion to Vernon “at work at home upon       was his habit to confound by breaking away from him abruptly
           his Etruscans or his Dorians”; and he paused a moment to let      when he had delivered his opinion, he left it to both the per-
           the allusion sink, laughed audibly to himself over his eccen-     sons interesting themselves in young Crossjay to imagine that
           tric cousin, and let him rest.                                    he was meditating on the question of the lad, and to imagine
               In addition, Sir Willoughby abhorred the loss of a famil-     that it would be wise to leave him to meditate; for he could
Contents




           iar face in his domestic circle. He thought ill of servants who   be preternaturally acute in reading any of his fellow-creatures
           could accept their dismissal without petitioning to stay with     if they crossed the current of his feelings. And, meanwhile, he
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           136                                                                                                                               137

           instructed the ladies Eleanor and Isabel to bring Laetitia Dale     cal liveliness that promised him health in his mate; but he
           on a visit to the Hall, where dinner-parties were soon to be        began to feel in their conversations that she did not suffi-
           given and a pleasing talker would be wanted, where also a           ciently think of making herself a nest for him. Steely points
           woman of intellect, steeped in a splendid sentiment, hitherto       were opposed to him when he, figuratively, bared his bosom
           a miracle of female constancy, might stir a younger woman to        to be taken to the softest and fairest. She reasoned: in other
           some emulation. Definitely to resolve to bestow Laetitia upon       words, armed her ignorance. She reasoned against him pub-
           Vernon was more than he could do; enough that he held the           licly, and lured Vernon to support her. Influence is to be
           card.                                                               counted for power, and her influence over Vernon was dis-
              Regarding Clara, his genius for perusing the heart which         played in her persuading him to dance one evening at Lady
           was not in perfect harmony with him through the series of           Culmer’s, after his melancholy exhibitions of himself in the
           responsive movements to his own, informed him of a some-            art; and not only did she persuade him to stand up fronting
           thing in her character that might have suggested to Mrs             her, she manoeuvred him through the dance like a clever boy
           Mountstuart Jenkinson her indefensible, absurd “rogue in            cajoling a top to come to him without reeling, both to Vernon’s
           porcelain”. Idea there was none in that phrase; yet, if you         contentment and to Sir Willoughby’s; for he was the last man
           looked on Clara as a delicately inimitable porcelain beauty,        to object to a manifestation of power in his bride. Consider-
           the suspicion of a delicately inimitable ripple over her fea-       ing her influence with Vernon, he renewed the discourse upon
           tures touched a thought of innocent roguery, wildwood rogu-         young Crossjay; and, as he was addicted to system, he took
           ery; the likeness to the costly and lovely substance appeared       her into his confidence, that she might be taught to look to
           to admit a fitness in the dubious epithet. He detested but          him and act for him.
           was haunted by the phrase.                                              “Old Vernon has not spoken to you again of that lad?” he
              She certainly had at times the look of the nymph that has        said.
           gazed too long on the faun, and has unwittingly copied his              “Yes, Mr. Whitford has asked me.”
           lurking lip and long sliding eye. Her play with young Crossjay          “He does not ask me, my dear!”
           resembled a return of the lady to the cat; she flung herself            “He may fancy me of greater aid than I am.”
Contents




           into it as if her real vitality had been in suspense till she saw       “You see, my love, if he puts Crossjay on me, he will be off.
           the boy. Sir Willoughby by no means disapproved of a physi-         He has this craze for ‘enlisting’ his pen in London, as he calls
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           it; and I am accustomed to him; I don’t like to think of him as          We do not expect so much of women; the heroic virtues as
           a hack scribe, writing nonsense from dictation to earn a piti-      little as the vices. They have not to unfold the scroll of char-
           ful subsistence; I want him here; and, supposing he goes, he        acter.
           offends me; he loses a friend; and it will not he the first time         He resumed, and by his tone she understood that she was
           that a friend has tried me too far; but if he offends me, he is     now in the inner temple of him: “I tell you these things; I
           extinct.”                                                           quite acknowledge they do not elevate me. They help to con-
                “Is what?” cried Clara, with a look of fright.                 stitute my character. I tell you most humbly that I have in me
                “He becomes to me at once as if he had never been. He is       much—too much of the fallen archangel’s pride.”
           extinct.”                                                                Clara bowed her head over a sustained in-drawn breath.
                “In spite of your affection?”                                       “It must be pride,” he said, in a reverie superinduced by
                “On account of it, I might say. Our nature is mysterious,      her thoughtfulness over the revelation, and glorying in the
           and mine as much so as any. Whatever my regrets, he goes            black flames demoniacal wherewith he crowned himself.
           out. This is not a language I talk to the world. I do the man            “Can you not correct it?” said she.
           no harm; I am not to be named unchristian. But . . . !”                  He replied, profoundly vexed by disappointment: “I am
                Sir Willoughby mildly shrugged, and indicated a spread-        what I am. It might be demonstrated to you mathematically
           ing out of the arms.                                                that it is corrected by equivalents or substitutions in my char-
                “But do, do talk to me as you talk to the world, Willoughby;   acter. If it be a failing—assuming that.”
           give me some relief!”                                                    “It seems one to me: so cruelly to punish Mr. Whitford
                “My own Clara, we are one. You should know me at my            for seeking to improve his fortunes.”
           worst, we will say, if you like, as well as at my best.”                 “He reflects on my share in his fortunes. He has had but
                “Should I speak too?”                                          to apply to me for his honorarium to be doubled.”
                “What could you have to confess?”                                   “He wishes for independence.”
                She hung silent; the wave of an insane resolution swelled           “Independence of me!”
           in her bosom and subsided before she said, “Cowardice, inca-             “Liberty!”
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           pacity to speak.”                                                        “At my expense!”
                “Women!” said he.                                                   “Oh, Willoughby!”
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               “Ay, but this is the world, and I know it, my love; and        in this region; it is the poor soul’s passion. Count on her agree-
           beautiful as your incredulity may be, you will find it more        ing. But she will require a little wooing: and old Vernon woo-
           comforting to confide in my knowledge of the selfishness of        ing! Picture the scene to yourself, my love. His notion of woo-
           the world. My sweetest, you will?—you do! For a breath of          ing. I suspect, will be to treat the lady like a lexicon, and turn
           difference between us is intolerable. Do you not feel how it       over the leaves for the word, and fly through the leaves for
           breaks our magic ring? One small fissure, and we have the          another word, and so get a sentence. Don’t frown at the poor
           world with its muddy deluge!—But my subject was old                old fellow, my Clara; some have the language on their tongues,
           Vernon. Yes, I pay for Crossjay, if Vernon consents to stay. I     and some have not. Some are very dry sticks; manly men,
           waive my own scheme for the lad, though I think it the better      honest fellows, but so cut away, so polished away from the
           one. Now, then, to induce Vernon to stay. He has his ideas         sex, that they are in absolute want of outsiders to supply the
           about staying under a mistress of the household; and there-        silken filaments to attach them. Actually!” Sir Willoughby
           fore, not to contest it—he is a man of no argument; a sort of      laughed in Clara’s face to relax the dreamy stoniness of her
           lunatic determination takes the place of it with old Vernon!—      look. “But I can assure you, my dearest, I have seen it. Vernon
           let him settle close by me, in one of my cottages; very well,      does not know how to speak—as we speak. He has, or he had,
           and to settle him we must marry him.”                              what is called a sneaking affection for Miss Dale. It was the
               “Who is there?” said Clara, beating for the lady in her        most amusing thing possible; his courtship!—the air of a dog
           mind.                                                              with an uneasy conscience, trying to reconcile himself with
               “Women,” said Willoughby, “are born match-makers, and          his master! We were all in fits of laughter. Of course it came
           the most persuasive is a young bride. With a man—and a             to nothing.”
           man like old Vernon!— she is irresistible. It is my wish, and          “Will Mr. Whitford,” said Clara, “offend you to extinc-
           that arms you. It is your wish, that subjugates him. If he goes,   tion if he declines?”
           he goes for good. If he stays, he is my friend. I deal simply          Willoughby breathed an affectionate “Tush!” to her silli-
           with him, as with every one. It is the secret of authority. Now    ness.
           Miss Dale will soon lose her father. He exists on a pension;           “We bring them together, as we best can. You see, Clara, I
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           she has the prospect of having to leave the neighbourhood of       desire, and I will make some sacrifices to detain him.”
           the Hall, unless she is established near us. Her whole heart is        “But what do you sacrifice?—a cottage?” said Clara, com-
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           bative at all points.                                               some;—with nothing behind it, perhaps. As Vernon says, ‘a
               “An ideal, perhaps. I lay no stress on sacrifice. I strongly    nothing picked by the vultures and bleached by the desert’.
           object to separations. And therefore, you will say, I prepare       Not a bad talker, if you are satisfied with keeping up the ball.
           the ground for unions? Put your influence to good service,          He will amuse you. Old Horace does not know how amusing
           my love. I believe you could persuade him to give us the High-      he is!”
           land fling on the drawing-room table.”                                  “Did Mr. Whitford say that of Colonel De Craye?”
               “There is nothing to say to him of Crossjay?”                       “I forget the person of whom he said it. So you have no-
               “We hold Crossjay in reserve.”                                  ticed old Vernon’s foible? Quote him one of his epigrams,
               “It is urgent.”                                                 and he is in motion head and heels! It is an infallible receipt
               “Trust me. I have my ideas. I am not idle. That boy bids        for tuning him. If I want to have him in good temper, I have
           fair for a capital horseman. Eventualities might . . .” Sir         only to remark, ‘as you said’. I straighten his back instantly.”
           Willoughby murmured to himself, and addressing his bride,               “I,” said Clara, “have noticed chiefly his anxiety concern-
           “The cavalry? If we put him into the cavalry, we might make         ing the boy; for which I admire him.”
           a gentleman of him—not be ashamed of him. Or, under cer-                “Creditable, if not particularly far-sighted and sagacious.
           tain eventualities, the Guards. Think it over, my love. De Craye,   Well, then, my dear, attack him at once; lead him to the sub-
           who will, I suppose, act best man for me, supposing old Vernon      ject of our fair neighbour. She is to be our guest for a week or
           to pull at the collar, is a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Guards, a     so, and the whole affair might be concluded far enough to fix
           thorough gentleman—of the brainless class, if you like, but         him before she leaves. She is at present awaiting the arrival of
           an elegant fellow; an Irishman; you will see him, and I should      a cousin to attend on her father. A little gentle pushing will
           like to set a naval lieutenant beside him in a drawingroom, for     precipitate old Vernon on his knees as far as he ever can un-
           you to compare them and consider the model you would                bend them; but when a lady is made ready to expect a decla-
           choose for a boy you are interested in. Horace is grace and         ration, you know, why, she does not—does she?—demand the
           gallantry incarnate; fatuous, probably: I have always been too      entire formula?—though some beautiful fortresses . . .”
           friendly with him to examine closely. He made himself one               He enfolded her. Clara was growing hardened to it. To
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           of my dogs, though my elder, and seemed to like to be at my         this she was fated; and not seeing any way to escape, she in-
           heels. One of the few men’s faces I can call admirably hand-        voked a friendly frost to strike her blood, and passed through
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           144                                                                                                                               145

           the minute unfeelingly. Having passed it, she reproached her-       who can expose himself as he does to me!
           self for making so much of it, thinking it a lesser endurance           Miss Middleton owed it to Sir Willoughby Patterne that
           than to listen to him. What could she do?—she was caged;            she ceased to think like a girl. When had the great change
           by her word of honour, as she at one time thought; by her           begun? Glancing back, she could imagine that it was near the
           cowardice, at another; and dimly sensible that the latter was a     period we call in love the first—almost from the first. And
           stronger lock than the former, she mused on the abstract ques-      she was led to imagine it through having become barred from
           tion whether a woman’s cowardice can be so absolute as to           imagining her own emotions of that season. They were so
           cast her into the jaws of her aversion. Is it to be conceived? Is   dead as not to arise even under the form of shadows in fancy.
           there not a moment when it stands at bay? But haggard-              Without imputing blame to him, for she was reasonable so
           visaged Honour then starts up claiming to be dealt with in          far, she deemed herself a person entrapped. In a dream some-
           turn; for having courage restored to her, she must have the         how she had committed herself to a life-long imprisonment;
           courage to break with honour, she must dare to be faithless,        and, oh terror! not in a quiet dungeon; the barren walls closed
           and not merely say, I will be brave, but be brave enough to be      round her, talked, called for ardour, expected admiration.
           dishonourable. The cage of a plighted woman hungering for               She was unable to say why she could not give it; why she
           her disengagement has two keepers, a noble and a vile; where        retreated more and more inwardly; why she invoked the frost
           on earth is creature so dreadfully enclosed? It lies with her to    to kill her tenderest feelings. She was in revolt, until a whisper
           overcome what degrades her, that she may win to liberty by          of the day of bells reduced her to blank submission; out of
           overcoming what exalts.                                             which a breath of peace drew her to revolt again in gradual
               Contemplating her situation, this idea (or vapour of youth      rapid stages, and once more the aspect of that singular day of
           taking the god-like semblance of an idea) sprang, born of her       merry blackness felled her to earth. It was alive, it advanced, it
           present sickness, in Clara’s mind; that it must be an ill-con-      had a mouth, it had a song. She received letters of brides-
           structed tumbling world where the hour of ignorance is made         maids writing of it, and felt them as waves that hurl a log of
           the creator of our destiny by being forced to the decisive elec-    wreck to shore. Following which afflicting sense of antago-
           tions upon which life’s main issues hang. Her teacher had           nism to the whole circle sweeping on with her, she considered
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           brought her to contemplate his view of the world.                   the possibility of her being in a commencement of madness.
               She thought likewise: how must a man despise women,             Otherwise might she not be accused of a capriciousness quite
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           146                                                                                                                               147

           as deplorable to consider? She had written to certain of these      my eye two years, and I can mount his enthusiasm at a word.
           young ladies not very long since of this gentleman—how?—            He took hommes d’esprit to denote men of letters. French-
           in what tone? And was it her madness then?—her recovery             men have destroyed their nobility, so, for the sake of excite-
           now? It seemed to her that to have written of him enthusias-        ment, they put up the literary man—not to worship him;
           tically resembled madness more than to shudder away from            that they can’t do; it’s to put themselves in a state of efferves-
           the union; but standing alone, opposing all she has consented       cence. They will not have real greatness above them, so they
           to set in motion, is too strange to a girl for perfect justifica-   have sham. That they may justly call it equality, perhaps! Ay,
           tion to be found in reason when she seeks it.                       for all your shake of the head, my good Vernon! You see, hu-
               Sir Willoughby was destined himself to supply her with          man nature comes round again, try as we may to upset it, and
           that key of special insight which revealed and stamped him in       the French only differ from us in wading through blood to
           a title to fortify her spirit of revolt, consecrate it almost.      discover that they are at their old trick once more; “I am your
               The popular physician of the county and famous anec-            equal, sir, your born equal. Oh! you are a man of letters? Al-
           dotal wit, Dr. Corney, had been a guest at dinner overnight,        low me to be in a bubble about you!” Yes, Vernon, and I
           and the next day there was talk of him, and of the resources of     believe the fellow looks up to you as the head of the establish-
           his art displayed by Armand Dehors on his hearing that he           ment. I am not jealous. Provided he attends to his functions!
           was to minister to the tastes of a gathering of hommes d’esprit.    There’s a French philosopher who’s for naming the days of
           Sir Willoughby glanced at Dehors with his customary be-             the year after the birthdays of French men of letters. Voltaire-
           nevolent irony in speaking of the persons, great in their way,      day, Rousseau-day, Racine-day, so on. Perhaps Vernon will
           who served him. “Why he cannot give us daily so good a              inform us who takes April 1st.”
           dinner, one must, I suppose, go to French nature to learn. The          “A few trifling errors are of no consequence when you are
           French are in the habit of making up for all their deficiencies     in the vein of satire,” said Vernon. “Be satisfied with knowing
           with enthusiasm. They have no reverence; if I had said to           a nation in the person of a cook.”
           him, ‘I want something particularly excellent, Dehors’, I               “They may be reading us English off in a jockey!” said Dr.
           should have had a commonplace dinner. But they have en-             Middleton. “I believe that jockeys are the exchange we make
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           thusiasm on draught, and that is what we must pull at. Know         for cooks; and our neighbours do not get the best of the bar-
           one Frenchman and you know France. I have had Dehors under          gain.”
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           148                                                                                                                                149

               “No; but, my dear good Vernon, it’s nonsensical,” said Sir       and related one of the after-dinner anecdotes of Dr. Corney;
           Willoughby; “why be bawling every day the name of men of             and another, with a vast deal of human nature in it, concern-
           letters?”                                                            ing a valetudinarian gentleman, whose wife chanced to be
               “Philosophers.”                                                  desperately ill, and he went to the physicians assembled in
               “Well, philosophers.”                                            consultation outside the sick-room, imploring them by all he
               “Of all countries and times. And they are the benefactors        valued, and in tears, to save the poor patient for him, saying:
           of humanity.”                                                        “She is everything to me, everything; and if she dies I am
               “Bene—!” Sir Willoughby’s derisive laugh broke the word.         compelled to run the risks of marrying again; I must marry
           “There’s a pretension in all that, irreconcilable with English       again; for she has accustomed me so to the little attentions of
           sound sense. Surely you see it?”                                     a wife, that in truth I can’t. I can’t lose her! She must be
               “We might,” said Vernon, “if you like, give alternative titles   saved!” And the loving husband of any devoted wife wrung
           to the days, or have alternating days, devoted to our great          his hands.
           families that performed meritorious deeds upon such a day.”              “Now, there, Clara, there you have the Egoist,” added Sir
               The rebel Clara, delighting in his banter, was heard: “Can       Willoughby. “That is the perfect Egoist. You see what he
           we furnish sufficient?”                                              comes to—and his wife! The man was utterly unconscious of
               “A poet or two could help us.”                                   giving vent to the grossest selfishness.”
               “Perhaps a statesman,” she suggested.                                “An Egoist!” said Clara.
               “A pugilist, if wanted.”                                             “Beware of marrying an Egoist, my dear!” He bowed gal-
               “For blowy days,” observed Dr. Middleton, and hastily in         lantly; and so blindly fatuous did he appear to her, that she
           penitence picked up the conversation he had unintentionally          could hardly believe him guilty of uttering the words she had
           prostrated, with a general remark on new-fangled notions,            heard from him, and kept her eyes on him vacantly till she
           and a word aside to Vernon; which created the blissful suspi-        came to a sudden full stop in the thoughts directing her gaze.
           cion in Clara that her father was indisposed to second Sir           She looked at Vernon, she looked at her father, and at the
           Willoughby’s opinions even when sharing them.                        ladies Eleanor and Isabel. None of them saw the man in the
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               Sir Willoughby had led the conversation. Displeased that         word, none noticed the word; yet this word was her medical
           the lead should be withdrawn from him, he turned to Clara            herb, her illuminating lamp, the key of him (and, alas, but
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           150                                                                                                                             151

           she thought it by feeling her need of one), the advocate plead-   would be a deed committed in spite of his express warning.
           ing in apology for her. Egoist! She beheld him—unfortunate,       She went so far as to conceive him subsequently saying: “I
           selfdesignated man that he was!—in his good qualities as well     warned you.” She conceived the state of marriage with him as
           as bad under the implacable lamp, and his good were drenched      that of a woman tied not to a man of heart, but to an obelisk
           in his first person singular. His generosity roared of I louder   lettered all over with hieroglyphics, and everlastingly hearing
           than the rest. Conceive him at the age of Dr. Corney’s hero:      him expound them, relishing renewing his lectures on them.
           “Pray, save my wife for me. I shall positively have to get an-        Full surely this immovable stone-man would not release
           other if I lose her, and one who may not love me half so well,    her. This petrifaction of egoism would from amazedly to aus-
           or understand the peculiarities of my character and appreci-      terely refuse the petition. His pride would debar him from
           ate my attitudes.” He was in his thirty-second year, therefore    understanding her desire to be released. And if she resolved
           a young man, strong and healthy, yet his garrulous return to      on it, without doing it straightway in Constantia’s manner,
           his principal theme, his emphasis on I and me, lent him the       the miserable bewilderment of her father, for whom such a
           seeming of an old man spotted with decaying youth.                complication would be a tragic dilemma, had to be thought
               “Beware of marrying an Egoist.”                               of. Her father, with all his tenderness for his child, would
               Would he help her to escape? The idea of the scene ensu-      make a stand on the point of honour; though certain to yield
           ing upon her petition for release, and the being dragged round    to her, he would be distressed in a tempest of worry; and Dr.
           the walls of his egoism, and having her head knocked against      Middleton thus afflicted threw up his arms, he shunned books,
           the corners, alarmed her with sensations of sickness.             shunned speech, and resembled a castaway on the ocean, with
               There was the example of Constantia. But that desperate       nothing between himself and his calamity. As for the world,
           young lady had been assisted by a gallant, loving gentleman;      it would be barking at her heels. She might call the man she
           she had met a Captain Oxford.                                     wrenched her hand from, Egoist; jilt, the world would call
               Clara brooded on those two until they seemed heroic. She      her. She dwelt bitterly on her agreement with Sir Willoughby
           questioned herself. Could she . . . ? were one to come? She       regarding the world, laying it to his charge that her garden
           shut her eyes in languor, leaning the wrong way of her wishes,    had become a place of nettles, her horizon an unlighted fourth
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           yet unable to say No.                                             side of a square.
               Sir Willoughby had positively said beware! Marrying him           Clara passed from person to person visiting the Hall. There
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           152                                                                                                                              153

           was universal, and as she was compelled to see, honest admi-           “I would rather not. I cannot wear borrowed jewels. These
           ration of the host. Not a soul had a suspicion of his cloaked      I cannot wear. Forgive me, I cannot. And, Willoughby,” she
           nature. Her agony of hypocrisy in accepting their compli-          said, scorning herself for want of fortitude in not keeping to
           ments as the bride of Sir Willoughby Patterne was poorly           the simply blunt provocative refusal, “does one not look like a
           moderated by contempt of them for their infatuation. She           victim decked for the sacrifice?—the garlanded heifer you see
           tried to cheat herself with the thought that they were right       on Greek vases, in that array of jewellery?”
           and that she was the foolish and wicked inconstant. In her             “My dear Clara!” exclaimed the astonished lover, “how can
           anxiety to strangle the rebelliousness which had been com-         you term them borrowed, when they are the Patterne jewels,
           municated from her mind to her blood, and was present with         our family heirloom pearls, unmatched, I venture to affirm,
           her whether her mind was in action or not, she encouraged          decidedly in my county and many others, and passing to the
           the ladies Eleanor and Isabel to magnify the fictitious man of     use of the mistress of the house in the natural course of
           their idolatry, hoping that she might enter into them imagi-       things?”
           natively, that she might to some degree subdue herself to the          “They are yours, they are not mine.”
           necessity of her position. If she partly succeeded in stupefy-         “Prospectively they are yours.”
           ing her antagonism, five minutes of him undid the work.                “It would be to anticipate the fact to wear them.”
               He requested her to wear the Patterne pearls for a dinner-         “With my consent, my approval? at my request?”
           party of grand ladies, telling her that he would commission            “I am not yet . . . I never may be . . .”
           Miss Isabel to take them to her. Clara begged leave to decline         “My wife?” He laughed triumphantly, and silenced her by
           them, on the plea of having no right to wear them. He laughed      manly smothering.
           at her modish modesty. “But really it might almost be classed          Her scruple was perhaps an honourable one, he said. Per-
           with affectation,” said he. “I give you the right. Virtually you   haps the jewels were safer in their iron box. He had merely
           are my wife.”                                                      intended a surprise and gratification to her.
               “No.”                                                              Courage was coming to enable her to speak more plainly,
               “Before heaven?”                                               when his discontinuing to insist on her wearing the jewels,
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               “No. We are not married.”                                      under an appearance of deference of her wishes, disarmed her
               “As my betrothed, will you wear them, to please me?”           by touching her sympathies.
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           154                                                                                                                               155

               She said, however, “I fear we do not often agree,               courted with a real desire to please him, he was the one she
           Willoughby.”                                                        affectionately envied; he was the youngest, the freest, he had
               “When you are a little older!” was the irritating answer.       the world before him, and he did not know how horrible the
               “It would then be too late to make the discovery.”              world was, or could be made to look. She loved the boy from
               “The discovery, I apprehend, is not imperative, my love.”       expecting nothing of him. Others, Vernon Whitford, for in-
               “It seems to me that our minds are opposed.”                    stance, could help, and moved no hand. He read her case. A
               “I should,” said he, “have been awake to it at a single indi-   scrutiny so penetrating under its air of abstract thoughtful-
           cation, be sure.”                                                   ness, though his eyes did but rest on her a second or two,
               “But I know,” she pursued, “I have learned that the ideal       signified that he read her line by line, and to the end—ex-
           of conduct for women is to subject their minds to the part of       cepting what she thought of him for probing her with that
           an accompaniment.”                                                  sharp steel of insight without a purpose.
               “For women, my love? my wife will be in natural harmony             She knew her mind’s injustice. It was her case, her lamen-
           with me.”                                                           table case—the impatient panic-stricken nerves of a captured
               “Ah!” She compressed her lips. The yawn would come. “I          wild creature which cried for help. She exaggerated her suf-
           am sleepier here than anywhere.”                                    ferings to get strength to throw them off, and lost it in the
               “Ours, my Clara, is the finest air of the kingdom. It has       recognition that they were exaggerated: and out of the con-
           the effect of sea-air.”                                             flict issued recklessness, with a cry as wild as any coming of
               “But if I am always asleep here?”                               madness; for she did not blush in saying to herself. “If some
               “We shall have to make a public exhibition of the Beauty.”      one loved me!” Before hearing of Constantia, she had mused
               This dash of his liveliness defeated her.                       upon liberty as a virgin Goddess—men were out of her
               She left him, feeling the contempt of the brain feverishly      thoughts; even the figure of a rescuer, if one dawned in her
           quickened and fine-pointed, for the brain chewing the cud in        mind, was more angel than hero. That fair childish
           the happy pastures of unawakedness. So violent was the fever,       maidenliness had ceased. With her body straining in her
           so keen her introspection, that she spared few, and Vernon          dragon’s grasp, with the savour of loathing, unable to con-
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           was not among them. Young Crossjay, whom she considered             tend, unable to speak aloud, she began to speak to herself, and
           the least able of all to act as an ally, was the only one she       all the health of her nature made her outcry womanly: “If I
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           156                                                                                                                             157

           were loved!”—not for the sake of love, but for free breathing;    promise, to the man they have been mistaken in, is . . . it is—
           and her utterance of it was to insure life and enduringness to    ” the sudden consciousness that she had put another name for
           the wish, as the yearning of a mother on a drowning ship is to    Oxford, struck her a buffet, drowning her in crimson.
           get her infant to shore. “If some noble gentleman could see
           me as I am and not disdain to aid me! Oh! to be caught up
           out of this prison of thorns and brambles. I cannot tear my
           own way out. I am a coward. My cry for help confesses that.
           A beckoning of a finger would change me, I believe. I could
           fly bleeding and through hootings to a comrade. Oh! a com-
           rade! I do not want a lover. I should find another Egoist, not
           so bad, but enough to make me take a breath like death. I
           could follow a soldier, like poor Sally or Molly. He stakes his
           life for his country, and a woman may be proud of the worst
           of men who do that. Constantia met a soldier. Perhaps she
           prayed and her prayer was answered. She did ill. But, oh, how
           I love her for it! His name was Harry Oxford. Papa would
           call him her Perseus. She must have felt that there was no
           explaining what she suffered. She had only to act, to plunge.
           First she fixed her mind on Harry Oxford. To be able to
           speak his name and see him awaiting her, must have been
           relief, a reprieve. She did not waver, she cut the links, she
           signed herself over. Oh, brave girl! what do you think of me?
           But I have no Harry Whitford, I am alone. Let anything be
           said against women; we must be very bad to have such bad
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           things written of us: only, say this, that to ask them to sign
           themselves over by oath and ceremony, because of an ignorant
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           158                                                                                                                               159

                                                                               the sense of stability about one. In London, my dear old fel-
                                                                               low, you lose your identity. What are you there? I ask you,
                                                                               what? One has the feeling of the house crumbling when a
                                                                               man is perpetually for shifting and cannot fix himself. Here
                                                                               you are known, you can study at your ease; up in London you
                                                                               are nobody; I tell you honestly, I feel it myself, a week of
                                                                               London literally drives me home to discover the individual
                                                                               where I left him. Be advised. You don’t mean to go.”
                                                                                  “I have the intention,” said Vernon.
                                                                                  “Why?”
                               Chapter 11.                                        “I’ve mentioned it to you.”
                           The double-blossom wild cherry-tree.                   “To my face?”
                                                                                  “Over your shoulder is generally the only chance you give
               Sir Willoughby chose a moment when Clara was with him           me.”
           and he had a good retreat through folding-windows to the               “You have not mentioned it to me, to my knowledge. As to
           lawn, in case of cogency on the enemy’s part, to attack his         the reason, I might hear a dozen of your reasons, and I should
           cousin regarding the preposterous plot to upset the family by       not understand one. It’s against your interests and against my
           a scamper to London: “By the way, Vernon, what is this you’ve       wishes. Come, friend, I am not the only one you distress.
           been mumbling to everybody save me, about leaving us to             Why, Vernon, you yourself have said that the English would
           pitch yourself into the stew-pot and be made broth of? Lon-         be very perfect Jews if they could manage to live on the patri-
           don is no better, and you are fit for considerably better. Don’t,   archal system. You said it, yes, you said it!—but I recollect it
           I beg you, continue to annoy me. Take a run abroad, if you          clearly. Oh, as for your double-meanings, you said the thing,
           are restless. Take two or three months, and join us as we are       and you jeered at the incapacity of English families to live
                                                                               together, on account of bad temper; and now you are the first
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           travelling home; and then think of settling, pray. Follow my
           example, if you like. You can have one of my cottages, or a         to break up our union! I decidedly do not profess to be a
           place built for you. Anything to keep a man from destroying         perfect Jew, but I do . . .”
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           160                                                                                                                              161

               Sir Willoughby caught signs of a probably smiling com-            She responded to the invitation by putting her hand forth
           merce between his bride and his cousin. He raised his face,        from a bent elbow, with hesitating fingers. “It should not be
           appeared to be consulting his eyelids, and resolved to laugh:      postponed, Willoughby.”
           “Well, I own it. I do like the idea of living patriarchally.” He      Her attitude suggested a stipulation before she touched
           turned to Clara. “The Rev. Doctor one of us!”                      him.
               “My father?” she said.                                            “It’s an affair of money, as you know, Willoughby,” said
               “Why not?”                                                     Vernon. “If I’m in London, I can’t well provide for the boy for
               “Papa’s habits are those of a scholar.”                        some time to come, or it’s not certain that I can.”
               “That you might not be separated from him, my dear!”              “Why on earth should you go?”
               Clara thanked Sir Willoughby for the kindness of think-           “That’s another matter. I want you to take my place with
           ing of her father, mentally analysing the kindness, in which at    him.”
           least she found no unkindness, scarcely egoism, though she            “In which case the circumstances are changed. I am re-
           knew it to be there.                                               sponsible for him, and I have a right to bring him up accord-
               “We might propose it,” said he.                                ing to my own prescription.”
               “As a compliment?”                                                “We are likely to have one idle lout the more.”
               “If he would condescend to accept it as a compliment.             “I guarantee to make a gentleman of him.”
           These great scholars! . . . And if Vernon goes, our inducement        “We have too many of your gentlemen already.”
           for Dr. Middleton to stay . . . But it is too absurd for discus-      “You can’t have enough, my good Vernon.”
           sion . . . Oh, Vernon, about Master Crossjay; I will see to it.”      “They’re the national apology for indolence. Training a
               He was about to give Vernon his shoulder and step into         penniless boy to be one of them is nearly as bad as an educa-
           the garden, when Clara said, “You will have Crossjay trained       tion in a thieves’ den; he will be just as much at war with
           for the navy, Willoughby? There is not a day to lose.”             society, if not game for the police.”
               “Yes, yes; I will see to it. Depend on me for holding the         “Vernon, have you seen Crossjay’s father, the now Captain
           young rascal in view.”                                             of Marines? I think you have.”
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               He presented his hand to her to lead her over the step to         “He’s a good man and a very gallant officer.”
           the gravel, surprised to behold how flushed she was.                  “And in spite of his qualities he’s a cub, and an old cub.
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           162                                                                                                                                 163

           He is a captain now, but he takes that rank very late, you will       knowledge of wickedness when she detained him to speak of
           own. There you have what you call a good man, undoubtedly             Crossjay before Vernon.
           a gallant officer, neutralized by the fact that he is not a gentle-       At last it had been seen that she was conscious of suffer-
           man. Holding intercourse with him is out of the question.             ing in her association with this Egoist! Vernon stood for the
           No wonder Government declines to advance him rapidly.                 world taken into her confidence. The world, then, would not
           Young Crossjay does not bear your name. He bears mine, and            think so ill of her, she thought hopefully, at the same time
           on that point alone I should have a voice in the settlement of        that she thought most evilly of herself. But self-accusations
           his career. And I say emphatically that a drawing-room ap-            were for the day of reckoning; she would and must have the
           proval of a young man is the best certificate for his general         world with her, or the belief that it was coming to her, in the
           chances in life. I know of a City of London merchant of some          terrible struggle she foresaw within her horizon of self, now
           sort, and I know a firm of lawyers, who will have none but            her utter boundary. She needed it for the inevitable conflict.
           University men at their office; at least, they have the prefer-       Little sacrifices of her honesty might be made. Considering
           ence.”                                                                how weak she was, how solitary, how dismally entangled, daily
              “Crossjay has a bullet head, fit neither for the University        disgraced beyond the power of any veiling to conceal from
           nor the drawing-room,” said Vernon; “equal to fighting and            her fiery sensations, a little hypocrisy was a poor girl’s natural
           dying for you, and that’s all.”                                       weapon. She crushed her conscientious mind with the assur-
              Sir Willoughby contented himself with replying, “The               ance that it was magnifying trifles: not entirely unaware that
           lad is a favourite of mine.”                                          she was thereby preparing it for a convenient blindness in the
              His anxiety to escape a rejoinder caused him to step into          presence of dread alternatives; but the pride of laying such
           the garden, leaving Clara behind him. “My love!” said he, in          stress on small sins gave her purity a blush of pleasure and
           apology, as he turned to her. She could not look stern, but she       overcame the inner warning. In truth she dared not think
           had a look without a dimple to soften it, and her eyes shone.         evilly of herself for long, sailing into battle as she was. Nuns
           For she had wagered in her heart that the dialogue she pro-           and anchorites may; they have leisure. She regretted the for-
           voked upon Crossjay would expose the Egoist. And there were           feits she had to pay for self-assistance, and, if it might be
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           other motives, wrapped up and intertwisted, unrecognizable,           won, the world’s; regretted, felt the peril of the loss, and took
           sufficient to strike her with worse than the flush of her self-       them up and flung them.
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           164                                                                                                                                165

              “You see, old Vernon has no argument,” Willoughby said                “I do not wish him to be here. I do not know that he has a
           to her.                                                              part to learn. I have no wish. Willoughby, did you not say I
              He drew her hand more securely on his arm to make her             should come to you and you would listen?—will you listen? I
           sensible that she leaned on a pillar of strength.                    am so commonplace that I shall not be understood by you
              “Whenever the little brain is in doubt, perplexed, unde-          unless you take my words for the very meaning of the words.
           cided which course to adopt, she will come to me, will she           I am unworthy. I am volatile. I love my liberty. I want to be
           not? I shall always listen,” he resumed, soothingly. “My own!        free . . .”
           and I to you when the world vexes me. So we round our com-               “Flitch!” he called.
           pleteness. You will know me; you will know me in good time.              It sounded necromantic.
           I am not a mystery to those to whom I unfold myself. I do                “Pardon me, my love,” he said. “The man you see yonder
           not pretend to mystery: yet, I will confess, your home—your          violates my express injunction that he is not to come on my
           heart ’s—Willoughby is not exactly identical with the                grounds, and here I find him on the borders of my garden!”
           Willoughby before the world. One must be armed against                   Sir Willoughby waved his hand to the abject figure of a
           that rough beast.”                                                   man standing to intercept him.
              Certain is the vengeance of the young upon monotony;                  “Volatile, unworthy, liberty—my dearest!” he bent to her
           nothing more certain. They do not scheme it, but sameness is         when the man had appeased him by departing, “you are at
           a poison to their systems; and vengeance is their heartier breath-   liberty within the law, like all good women; I shall control
           ing, their stretch of the limbs, run in the fields; nature avenges   and direct your volatility; and your sense of worthiness must
           them.                                                                be re-established when we are more intimate; it is timidity.
              “When does Colonel De Craye arrive?” said Clara.                  The sense of unworthiness is a guarantee of worthiness ensu-
              “Horace? In two or three days. You wish him to be on the          ing. I believe I am in the vein of a sermon! Whose the fault?
           spot to learn his part, my love?”                                    The sight of that man was annoying. Flitch was a stable-boy,
              She had not flown forward to the thought of Colonel De            groom, and coachman, like his father before him, at the Hall
           Craye’s arrival; she knew not why she had mentioned him;             thirty years; his father died in our service. Mr. Flitch had not
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           but now she flew back, shocked, first into shadowy subter-           a single grievance here; only one day the demon seizes him
           fuge, and then into the criminal’s dock.                             with the notion of bettering himself he wants his indepen-
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           166                                                                                                                             167

           dence, and he presents himself to me with a story of a shop in    elements in me—”
           our county town.—Flitch! remember, if you go you go for               “Dreadful!”
           good.—Oh, he quite comprehended.—Very well; good-bye,                 “Exert your persuasive powers with Vernon. You can do
           Flitch;—the man was respectful: he looked the fool he was         well-nigh what you will with the old fellow. We have Miss
           very soon to turn out to be. Since then, within a period of       Dale this evening for a week or two. Lead him to some ideas
           several years, I have had him, against my express injunctions,    of her.—Elements in me, I was remarking, which will no more
           ten times on my grounds. It’s curious to calculate. Of course     bear to be handled carelessly than gunpowder. At the same
           the shop failed, and Flitch’s independence consists in walk-      time, there is no reason why they should not be respected,
           ing about with his hands in his empty pockets, and looking at     managed with some degree of regard for me and attention to
           the Hall from some elevation near.”                               consequences. Those who have not done so have repented.”
               “Is he married? Has he children?” said Clara.                     “You do not speak to others of the elements in you,” said
               “Nine; and a wife that cannot cook or sew or wash linen.”     Clara.
               “You could not give him employment?”                              “I certainly do not: I have but one bride,” was his hand-
               “After his having dismissed himself?”                         some reply.
               “It might be overlooked.”                                         “Is it fair to me that you should show me the worst of
               “Here he was happy. He decided to go elsewhere, to be         you?”
           free—of course, of my yoke. He quitted my service against             “All myself, my own?”
           my warning. Flitch, we will say, emigrated with his wife and          His ingratiating droop and familiar smile rendered “All
           children, and the ship foundered. He returns, but his place is    myself ” so affectionately meaningful in its happy reliance upon
           filled; he is a ghost here, and I object to ghosts.”              her excess of love, that at last she understood she was ex-
               “Some work might be found for him.”                           pected to worship him and uphold him for whatsoever he
               “It will be the same with old Vernon, my dear. If he goes,    might be, without any estimation of qualities: as indeed love
           he goes for good. It is the vital principle of my authority to    does, or young love does: as she perhaps did once, before he
           insist on that. A dead leaf might as reasonably demand to         chilled her senses. That was before her “little brain” had be-
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           return to the tree. Once off, off for all eternity! I am sorry,   come active and had turned her senses to revolt.
           but such was your decision, my friend. I have, you see, Clara,        It was on the full river of love that Sir Willoughby sup-
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           168                                                                                                                              169

           posed the whole floating bulk of his personality to be se-         miracle is to see us rise again.
           curely sustained; and therefore it was that, believing himself         Women of mixed essences shading off the divine to the
           swimming at his ease, he discoursed of himself.                    considerably lower were outside his vision of woman. His mind
               She went straight away from that idea with her mental          could as little admit an angel in pottery as a rogue in porce-
           exclamation: “Why does he not paint himself in brighter            lain. For him they were what they were when fashioned at the
           colours to me!” and the question: “Has he no ideal of generos-     beginning; many cracked, many stained, here and there a per-
           ity and chivalry?”                                                 fect specimen designed for the elect of men. At a whisper of
               But the unfortunate gentleman imagined himself to be           the world he shut the prude’s door on them with a slam; him-
           loved, on Love’s very bosom. He fancied that everything re-        self would have branded them with the letters in the hue of
           lating to himself excited maidenly curiosity, womanly rever-       fire. Privately he did so; and he was constituted by his ex-
           ence, ardours to know more of him, which he was ever willing       treme sensitiveness and taste for ultra-feminine refinement
           to satisfy by repeating the same things. His notion of women       to be a severe critic of them during the carnival of egoism, the
           was the primitive black and white: there are good women,           love-season. Constantia . . . can it he told? She had been, be it
           bad women; and he possessed a good one. His high opinion           said, a fair and frank young merchant with him in that sea-
           of himself fortified the belief that Providence, as a matter of    son; she was of a nature to be a mother of heroes; she met the
           justice and fitness, must necessarily select a good one for him—   salute, almost half-way, ingenuously unlike the coming moth-
           or what are we to think of Providence? And this female, shaped     ers of the regiments of marionettes, who retire in vapours,
           by that informing hand, would naturally be in harmony with         downcast, as by convention; ladies most flattering to the ego-
           him, from the centre of his profound identity to the raying        istical gentleman, for they proclaim him the “first ”.
           circle of his variations. Know the centre, you know the circle,    Constantia’s offence had been no greater, but it was not that
           and you discover that the variations are simply characteristics,   dramatic performance of purity which he desired of an affi-
           but you must travel on the rays from the circle to get to the      anced lady, and so the offence was great.
           centre. Consequently Sir Willoughby put Miss Middleton                 The love-season is the carnival of egoism, and it brings the
           on one or other of these converging lines from time to time.       touchstone to our natures. I speak of love, not the mask, and
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           Us, too, he drags into the deeps, but when we have harpooned       not of the flutings upon the theme of love, but of the passion;
           a whale and are attached to the rope, down we must go; the         a flame having, like our mortality, death in it as well as life,
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           170                                                                                                                               171

           that may or may not be lasting. Applied to Sir Willoughby,          lies, languishes. The capaciously strong in soul among women
           as to thousands of civilized males, the touchstone found him        will ultimately detect an infinite grossness in the demand for
           requiring to be dealt with by his betrothed as an original          purity infinite, spotless bloom. Earlier or later they see they
           savage. She was required to play incessantly on the first re-       have been victims of the singular Egoist, have worn a mask of
           claiming chord which led our ancestral satyr to the measures        ignorance to be named innocent, have turned themselves into
           of the dance, the threading of the maze, and the setting con-       market produce for his delight, and have really abandoned
           formably to his partner before it was accorded to him to spin       the commodity in ministering to the lust for it, suffered them-
           her with both hands and a chirrup of his frisky heels. To keep      selves to be dragged ages back in playing upon the fleshly
           him in awe and hold him enchained, there are things she must        innocence of happy accident to gratify his jealous greed of
           never do, dare never say, must not think. She must be cloistral.    possession, when it should have been their task to set the soul
           Now, strange and awful though it be to hear, women perceive         above the fairest fortune and the gift of strength in women
           this requirement of them in the spirit of the man; they per-        beyond ornamental whiteness. Are they not of nature war-
           ceive, too, and it may be gratefully, that they address their       riors, like men?—men’s mates to bear them heroes instead of
           performances less to the taming of the green and prankish           puppets? But the devouring male Egoist prefers them as in-
           monsieur of the forest than to the pacification of a voracious      animate overwrought polished pure metal precious vessels,
           aesthetic gluttony, craving them insatiably, through all the        fresh from the hands of the artificer, for him to walk away
           tenses, with shrieks of the lamentable letter “I” for their pu-     with hugging, call all his own, drink of, and fill and drink of,
           rity. Whether they see that it has its foundation in the sen-       and forget that he stole them.
           sual, and distinguish the ultra-refined but lineally great-grand-       This running off on a by-road is no deviation from Sir
           son of the Hoof in this vast and dainty exacting appetite is        Willoughby Patterne and Miss Clara Middleton. He, a fairly
           uncertain. They probably do not; the more the damage; for           intelligent man, and very sensitive, was blinded to what was
           in the appeasement of the glutton they have to practise much        going on within her visibly enough, by her production of the
           simulation; they are in their way losers like their ancient moth-   article he demanded of her sex. He had to leave the fair young
           ers. It is the palpable and material of them still which they       lady to ride to his county-town, and his design was to con-
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           are tempted to flourish, wherewith to invite and allay pur-         duct her through the covert of a group of laurels, there to
           suit: a condition under which the spiritual, wherein their hope     revel in her soft confusion. She resisted; nay, resolutely re-
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           172                                                                                                                             173

           turned to the lawn-sward. He contrasted her with Constantia       even cool and innocent blood, even with a touch, that she said
           in the amorous time, and rejoiced in his disappointment. He       to herself, “And if I marry, and then . . . Where will honour
           saw the goddess Modesty guarding Purity; and one would be         be then? I marry him to be true to my word of honour, and if
           bold to say that he did not hear the Precepts, Purity’s aged      then . . . !” An intolerable languor caused her to sigh pro-
           grannams maternal and paternal, cawing approval of her over       foundly. It is written as she thought it; she thought in blanks,
           their munching gums. And if you ask whether a man, sensi-         as girls do, and some women. A shadow of the male Egoist is
           tive and a lover, can be so blinded, you are condemned to re-     in the chamber of their brains overawing them.
           peruse the foregoing paragraph.                                       “Were I to marry, and to run!” There is the thought; she is
               Miss Middleton was not sufficiently instructed in the         offered up to your mercy. We are dealing with a girl feeling
           position of her sex to know that she had plunged herself in       herself desperately situated, and not a fool.
           the thick of the strife of one of their great battles. Her per-       “I’m sure you’re dead tired, though,” said Crossjay.
           sonal position, however, was instilling knowledge rapidly, as a       “No, I am not; what makes you think so?” said Clara.
           disease in the frame teaches us what we are and have to con-          “I do think so.”
           tend with. Could she marry this man? He was evidently man-            “But why do you think so?”
           ageable. Could she condescend to the use of arts in managing          “You’re so hot.”
           him to obtain a placable life?—a horror of swampy flatness!           “What makes you think that?”
           So vividly did the sight of that dead heaven over an unvarying        “You’re so red.”
           level earth swim on her fancy, that she shut her eyes in angry        “So are you, Crossjay.”
           exclusion of it as if it were outside, assailing her; and she         “I’m only red in the middle of the cheeks, except when
           nearly stumbled upon young Crossjay.                              I’ve been running. And then you talk to yourself, just as boys
               “Oh, have I hurt you?” he cried.                              do when they are blown.”
               “No,” said she, “it was my fault. Lead me somewhere away          “Do they?”
           from everybody.”                                                      “They say: ‘I know I could have kept up longer’, or, ‘my
               The boy took her hand, and she resumed her thoughts;          buckle broke’, all to themselves, when they break down run-
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           and, pressing his fingers and feeling warm to him both for his    ning.”
           presence and silence, so does the blood in youth lead the mind,       “And you have noticed that?”
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           174                                                                                                                                175

              “And, Miss Middleton, I don’t wish you were a boy, but I          She had a curiosity to know the title of the book he would
           should like to live near you all my life and be a gentleman.         read beneath these boughs, and grasping Crossjay’s hand fast
           I’m coming with Miss Dale this evening to stay at the Hall           she craned her neck, as one timorous of a fall in peeping over
           and be looked after, instead of stopping with her cousin who         chasms, for a glimpse of the page; but immediately, and still
           takes care of her father. Perhaps you and I’ll play chess at         with a bent head, she turned her face to where the load of
           night.”                                                              virginal blossom, whiter than summer-cloud on the sky, show-
              “At night you will go to bed, Crossjay.”                          ered and drooped and clustered so thick as to claim colour
              “Not if I have Sir Willoughby to catch hold of. He says           and seem, like higher Alpine snows in noon-sunlight, a flush
           I’m an authority on birds’ eggs. I can manage rabbits and            of white. From deep to deeper heavens of white, her eyes
           poultry. Isn’t a farmer a happy man? But he doesn’t marry            perched and soared. Wonder lived in her. Happiness in the
           ladies. A cavalry officer has the best chance.”                      beauty of the tree pressed to supplant it, and was more mortal
              “But you are going to be a naval officer.”                        and narrower. Reflection came, contracting her vision and
              “I don’t know. It’s not positive. I shall bring my two dor-       weighing her to earth. Her reflection was: “He must be good
           mice, and make them perform gymnastics on the dinnertable.           who loves to be and sleep beneath the branches of this tree!”
           They’re such dear little things. Naval officers are not like Sir     She would rather have clung to her first impression: wonder
           Willoughby.”                                                         so divine, so unbounded, was like soaring into homes of an-
              “No, they are not,” said Clara, “they give their lives to their   gel-crowded space, sweeping through folded and on to folded
           country.”                                                            white fountain-bow of wings, in innumerable columns; but
              “And then they’re dead,” said Crossjay.                           the thought of it was no recovery of it; she might as well have
              Clara wished Sir Willoughby were confronting her: she             striven to be a child. The sensation of happiness promised to
           could have spoken.                                                   be less short-lived in memory, and would have been had not
              She asked the boy where Mr. Whitford was. Crossjay                her present disease of the longing for happiness ravaged every
           pointed very secretly in the direction of the double-blossom         corner of it for the secret of its existence. The reflection took
           wild-cherry. Coming within gaze of the stem, she beheld              root. “He must be good . . . !” That reflection vowed to en-
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           Vernon stretched at length, reading, she supposed; asleep, she       dure. Poor by comparison with what it displaced, it presented
           discovered: his finger in the leaves of a book; and what book?       itself to her as conferring something on him, and she would
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           176                                                                                                                            177

           not have had it absent though it robbed her.
               She looked down. Vernon was dreamily looking up.
               She plucked Crossjay hurriedly away, whispering that he
           had better not wake Mr. Whitford, and then she proposed to
           reverse their previous chase, and she be the hound and he the
           hare. Crossjay fetched a magnificent start. On his glancing
           behind he saw Miss Middleton walking listlessly, with a hand
           at her side.
               “There’s a regular girl!” said he in some disgust; for his
           theory was, that girls always have something the matter with
           them to spoil a game.                                                                  Chapter 12.
                                                                                          Miss Middleton and Mr. Vernon Whitford.

                                                                                Looking upward, not quite awakened out of a transient
                                                                            doze, at a fair head circled in dazzling blossom, one may tem-
                                                                            porize awhile with common sense, and take it for a vision
                                                                            after the eyes have regained direction of the mind. Vernon
                                                                            did so until the plastic vision interwound with reality alarm-
                                                                            ingly. This is the embrace of a Melusine who will soon have
                                                                            the brain if she is encouraged. Slight dalliance with her makes
                                                                            the very diminutive seem as big as life. He jumped to his feet,
                                                                            rattled his throat, planted firmness on his brows and mouth,
                                                                            and attacked the dream-giving earth with tremendous long
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                                                                            strides, that his blood might be lively at the throne of under-
                                                                            standing. Miss Middleton and young Crossjay were within
                                                                            hail: it was her face he had seen, and still the idea of a vision,
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           chased from his reasonable wits, knocked hard and again for          that nonsense is to be walked off
           readmission. There was little for a man of humble mind to-               Near the end of the park young Crossjay overtook him,
           ward the sex to think of in the fact of a young lady’s bending       and after acting the pumped one a trifle more than needful,
           rather low to peep at him asleep, except that the poise of her       cried: “I say, Mr. Whitford, there’s Miss Middleton with her
           slender figure, between an air of spying and of listening, viv-      handkerchief out.”
           idly recalled his likening of her to the Mountain Echo. Man              “What for, my lad?” said Vernon.
           or maid sleeping in the open air provokes your tiptoe curios-            “I’m sure I don’t know. All of a sudden she bumped down.
           ity. Men, it is known, have in that state cruelly been kissed;       And, look what fellows girls are!—here she comes as if noth-
           and no rights are bestowed on them, they are teased by a             ing had happened, and I saw her feel at her side.”
           vapourish rapture; what has happened to them the poor fel-               Clara was shaking her head to express a denial. “I am not
           lows barely divine: they have a crazy step from that day. But        at all unwell,” she said, when she came near. “I guessed
           a vision is not so distracting; it is our own, we can put it aside   Crossjay’s business in running up to you; he’s a good-for-
           and return to it, play at rich and poor with it, and are not to      nothing, officious boy. I was tired, and rested for a moment.”
           be summoned before your laws and rules for secreting it in               Crossjay peered at her eyelids. Vernon looked away and
           our treasury. Besides, it is the golden key of all the possible;     said: “Are you too tired for a stroll?”
           new worlds expand beneath the dawn it brings us. Just out-               “Not now.”
           side reality, it illumines, enriches and softens real things;—           “Shall it be brisk?”
           and to desire it in preference to the simple fact is a damning           “You have the lead.”
           proof of enervation.                                                     He led at a swing of the legs that accelerated young
               Such was Vernon’s winding up of his brief drama of fan-          Crossjay’s to the double, but she with her short, swift, equal
           tasy. He was aware of the fantastical element in him and soon        steps glided along easily on a fine by his shoulder, and he
           had it under. Which of us who is of any worth is without it?         groaned to think that of all the girls of earth this one should
           He had not much vanity to trouble him, and passion was               have been chosen for the position of fine lady.
           quiet, so his task was not gigantic. Especially be it remarked,          “You won’t tire me,” said she, in answer to his look.
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           that he was a man of quick pace, the sovereign remedy for the            “You remind me of the little Piedmontese Bersaglieri on
           dispersing of the mental fen-mist. He had tried it and knew          the march.”
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               “I have seen them trotting into Como from Milan.”               But why will you talk of skeletons! The very name of moun-
               “They cover a quantity of ground in a day, if the ground’s      tain seems life in comparison with any other subject.”
           flat. You want another sort of step for the mountains.”                 “I assure you,” said Vernon, with the fervour of a man
               “I should not attempt to dance up.”                             lighting on an actual truth in his conversation with a young
               “They soon tame romantic notions of them.”                      lady, “it’s not the first time I have thought you would be at
               “The mountains tame luxurious dreams, you mean. I see           home in the Alps. You would walk and climb as well as you
           how they are conquered. I can plod. Anything to be high             dance.”
           up!”                                                                    She liked to hear Clara Middleton talked of, and of her
               “Well, there you have the secret of good work: to plod on       having been thought of, and giving him friendly eyes, barely
           and still keep the passion fresh.”                                  noticing that he was in a glow, she said: “If you speak so en-
               “Yes, when we have an aim in view.”                             couragingly I shall fancy we are near an ascent.”
               “We always have one.”                                               “I wish we were,” said he.
               “Captives have?”                                                    “We can realize it by dwelling on it, don’t you think?”
               “More than the rest of us.”                                         “We can begin climbing.”
               Ignorant man! What of wives miserably wedded? What                  “Oh!” she squeezed herself shadowily.
           aim in view have these most woeful captives? Horror shrouds             “Which mountain shall it be?” said Vernon, in the right
           it, and shame reddens through the folds to tell of innermost        real earnest tone.
           horror.                                                                 Miss Middleton suggested a lady’s mountain first, for a
               “Take me back to the mountains, if you please, Mr.              trial. “And then, if you think well enough of me—if I have
           Whitford,” Miss Middleton said, fallen out of sympathy with         not stumbled more than twice, or asked more than ten times
           him. “Captives have death in view, but that is not an aim.”         how far it is from the top, I should like to be promoted to
               “Why may not captives expect a release?”                        scale a giant.”
               “Hardly from a tyrant.”                                             They went up to some of the lesser heights of Switzerland
               “If you are thinking of tyrants, it may be so. Say the tyrant   and Styria, and settled in South Tyrol, the young lady prefer-
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           dies?”                                                              ring this district for the strenuous exercise of her climbing
               “The prison-gates are unlocked and out comes a skeleton.        powers because she loved Italian colour; and it seemed an
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           182                                                                                                                             183

           exceedingly good reason to the genial imagination she had         Willoughby: she remembered him and said. “You knew Miss
           awakened in Mr. Whitford. “Though,” said he, abruptly, “you       Durham, Mr. Whitford?”
           are not so much Italian as French.”                                   He answered briefly, “I did.”
               She hoped she was English, she remarked.                          “Was she? . . .” some hot-faced inquiry peered forth and
               “Of course you are English; . . . yes.” He moderated his      withdrew.
           ascent with the halting affirmative.                                  “Very handsome,” said Vernon.
               She inquired wonderingly why he spoke in apparent hesi-           “English?”
           tation.                                                               “Yes; the dashing style of English.”
               “Well, you have French feet, for example: French wits,            “Very courageous.”
           French impatience,” he lowered his voice, “and charm”                 “I dare say she had a kind of courage.”
               “And love of compliments.”                                        “She did very wrong.”
               “Possibly. I was not conscious of paying them”                    “I won’t say no. She discovered a man more of a match
               “And a disposition to rebel?”                                 with herself; luckily not too late. We’re at the mercy . . .”
               “To challenge authority, at least.”                               “Was she not unpardonable?”
               “That is a dreadful character.”                                   “I should be sorry to think that of any one.”
               “At all events, it is a character.”                               “But you agree that she did wrong.”
               “Fit for an Alpine comrade?”                                      “I suppose I do. She made a mistake and she corrected it.
               “For the best of comrades anywhere.”                          If she had not, she would have made a greater mistake.”
               “It is not a piece of drawing-room sculpture: that is the         “The manner. . .”
           most one can say for it!” she dropped a dramatic sigh.                “That was bad—as far as we know. The world has not
               Had he been willing she would have continued the theme,       much right to judge. A false start must now and then be
           for the pleasure a poor creature long gnawing her sensations      made. It’s better not to take notice of it, I think.”
           finds in seeing herself from the outside. It fell away. After a       “What is it we are at the mercy of?”
           silence, she could not renew it; and he was evidently indiffer-       “Currents of feeling, our natures. I am the last man to
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           ent, having to his own satisfaction dissected and stamped her     preach on the subject: young ladies are enigmas to me; I fancy
           a foreigner. With it passed her holiday. She had forgotten Sir    they must have a natural perception of the husband suitable
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           184                                                                                                                               185

           to them, and the reverse; and if they have a certain degree of          “In some cases it is right to judge by results; we’ll leave
           courage, it follows that they please themselves.”                   severity to the historian, who is bound to be a professional
               “They are not to reflect on the harm they do?” said Miss        moralist and put pleas of human nature out of the scales. The
           Middleton.                                                          lady in question may have been to blame, but no hearts were
               “By all means let them reflect; they hurt nobody by doing       broken, and here we have four happy instead of two miser-
           that.”                                                              able.”
               “But a breach of faith!”                                            His persecuting geniality of countenance appealed to her
               “If the faith can be kept through life, all’s well.”            to confirm this judgement by results, and she nodded and
               “And then there is the cruelty, the injury!”                    said: “Four,” as the awe-stricken speak.
               “I really think that if a young lady came to me to inform           From that moment until young Crossjay fell into the
           me she must break our engagement—I have never been put              green-rutted lane from a tree, and was got on his legs half
           to the proof, but to suppose it:—I should not think her cruel.”     stunned, with a hanging lip and a face like the inside of a
               “Then she would not be much of a loss.”                         flayed eel-skin, she might have been walking in the desert,
               “And I should not think so for this reason, that it is im-      and alone, for the pleasure she had in society.
           possible for a girl to come to such a resolution without previ-         They led the fated lad home between them, singularly
           ously showing signs of it to her. . . the man she is engaged to.    drawn together by their joint ministrations to him, in which
           I think it unfair to engage a girl for longer than a week or two,   her delicacy had to stand fire, and sweet good-nature made
           just time enough for her preparations and publications.”            naught of any trial. They were hand in hand with the little
               “If he is always intent on himself, signs are likely to be      fellow as physician and professional nurse.
           unheeded by him,” said Miss Middleton.
               He did not answer, and she said, quickly:
               “It must always be a cruelty. The world will think so. It is
           an act of inconstancy.”
               “If they knew one another well before they were engaged.”
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               “Are you not singularly tolerant?” said she.
               To which Vernon replied with airy cordiality:—
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           186                                                                                                                              187

                                                                              said Miss Middleton.
                                                                                  She did not receive an answer, and she thought: “What-
                                                                              ever Willoughby does is right, to this lady!”
                                                                                  Clara’s impression was renewed when Sir Willoughby sat
                                                                              beside Miss Dale in the evening; and certainly she had never
                                                                              seen him shine so picturesquely as in his bearing with Miss
                                                                              Dale. The sprightly sallies of the two, their rallyings, their
                                                                              laughter, and her fine eyes, and his handsome gestures, won
                                                                              attention like a fencing match of a couple keen with the foils
                                                                              to display the mutual skill. And it was his design that she
                               Chapter 13.                                    should admire the display; he was anything but obtuse; en-
                                The first effort after freedom.               joying the match as he did and necessarily did to act so excel-
                                                                              lent a part in it, he meant the observer to see the man he was
              Crossjay’s accident was only another proof, as Vernon told      with a lady not of raw understanding. So it went on from day
           Miss Dale, that the boy was but half monkey.                       to day for three days.
              “Something fresh?” she exclaimed on seeing him brought              She fancied once that she detected the agreeable stirring
           into the Hall, where she had just arrived.                         of the brood of jealousy, and found it neither in her heart nor
              “Simply a continuation,” said Vernon. “He is not so pre-        in her mind, but in the book of wishes, well known to the
           hensile as he should be. He probably in extremity relies on        young where they write matter which may sometimes be in-
           the tail that has been docked. Are you a man, Crossjay?”           dependent of both those volcanic albums. Jealousy would have
              “I should think I was!” Crossjay replied, with an old man’s     been a relief to her, a dear devil’s aid. She studied the com-
           voice, and a ghastly twitch for a smile overwhelmed the com-       plexion of jealousy to delude herself with the sense of the
           passionate ladies.                                                 spirit being in her, and all the while she laughed, as at a vile
                                                                              theatre whereof the imperfection of the stage machinery rather
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              Miss Dale took possession of him. “You err in the other
           direction,” she remarked to Vernon.                                than the performance is the wretched source of amusement.
              “But a little bracing roughness is better than spoiling him.”       Vernon had deeply depressed her. She was hunted by the
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           188                                                                                                                              189

           figure 4. Four happy instead of two miserable. He had said it,     look of hers had of late perplexed the man, and he was com-
           involving her among the four; and so it must be, she consid-       forted by signs of her inefficiency where he excelled. The
           ered, and she must be as happy as she could; for not only was      effort and the failure were both of good omen.
           he incapable of perceiving her state, he was unable to imagine         But she could not continue the effort. He had overweighted
           other circumstances to surround her. How, to be just to him,       her too much for the mimicry of a sentiment to harden and
           were they imaginable by him or any one?                            have an apparently natural place among her impulses; and
               Her horrible isolation of secrecy in a world amiable in        now an idea came to her that he might, it might be hoped,
           unsuspectingness frightened her. To fling away her secret, to      possibly see in Miss Dale, by present contrast, the mate he
           conform, to be unrebellious, uncritical, submissive, became        sought; by contrast with an unanswering creature like herself,
           an impatient desire; and the task did not appear so difficult      he might perhaps realize in Miss Dale’s greater accomplish-
           since Miss Dale’s arrival. Endearments had been rare, more         ments and her devotion to him the merit of suitability; he
           formal; living bodily untroubled and unashamed, and, as she        might be induced to do her justice. Dim as the loop-hole was,
           phrased it, having no one to care for her, she turned insensibly   Clara fixed her mind on it till it gathered light. And as a
           in the direction where she was due; she slightly imitated Miss     prelude to action, she plunged herself into a state of such
           Dale’s colloquial responsiveness. To tell truth, she felt viva-    profound humility, that to accuse it of being simulated would
           cious in a moderate way with Willoughby after seeing him           he venturesome, though it was not positive. The tempers of
           with Miss Dale. Liberty wore the aspect of a towering prison-      the young are liquid fires in isles of quicksand; the precious
           wall; the desperate undertaking of climbing one side and drop-     metals not yet cooled in a solid earth. Her compassion for
           ping to the other was more than she, unaided, could resolve        Laetitia was less forced, but really she was almost as earnest in
           on; consequently, as no one cared for her, a worthless creature    her self-abasement, for she had not latterly been brilliant, not
           might as well cease dreaming and stipulating for the fulfilment    even adequate to the ordinary requirements of conversation.
           of her dreams; she might as well yield to her fate; nay, make      She had no courage, no wit, no diligence, nothing that she
           the best of it.                                                    could distinguish save discontentment like a corroding acid,
               Sir Willoughby was flattered and satisfied. Clara’s adopted    and she went so far in sincerity as with a curious shift of
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           vivacity proved his thorough knowledge of feminine nature;         feeling to pity the man plighted to her. If it suited her pur-
           nor did her feebleness in sustaining it displease him. A steady    pose to pity Sir Willoughby, she was not moved by policy, be
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           190                                                                                                                             191

           assured; her needs were her nature, her moods her mind; she       Miss Middleton the beech, Sir Willoughby the birch, and
           had the capacity to make anything serve her by passing into it    pretty things were said by each in praise of the favoured ob-
           with the glance which discerned its usefulness; and this is       ject, particularly by Miss Dale. So much so that when she
           how it is that the young, when they are in trouble, without       had gone on he recalled one of her remarks, and said: “I be-
           approaching the elevation of scientific hypocrites, can teach     lieve, if the whole place were swept away to-morrow, Laetitia
           that able class lessons in hypocrisy.                             Dale could reconstruct it and put those aspens on the north
               “Why should not Willoughby be happy?” she said; and           of the lake in number and situation correctly where you have
           the exclamation was pushed forth by the second thought:           them now. I would guarantee her description of it in absence
           “Then I shall be free!” Still that thought came second.           correct.”
               The desire for the happiness of Willoughby was fervent            “Why should she be absent?” said Clara, palpitating.
           on his behalf and wafted her far from friends and letters to a        “Well, why!” returned Sir Willoughby. “As you say, there
           narrow Tyrolean valley, where a shallow river ran, with the       is no reason why. The art of life, and mine will be principally
           indentations of a remotely seen army of winding ranks in col-     a country life—town is not life, but a tornado whirling at-
           umn, topaz over the pebbles to hollows of ravishing emerald.      oms—the art is to associate a group of sympathetic friends in
           There sat Liberty, after her fearful leap over the prison-wall,   our neighbourhood; and it is a fact worth noting that if ever I
           at peace to watch the water and the falls of sunshine on the      feel tired of the place, a short talk with Laetitia Dale refreshes
           mountain above, between descending pine-stem shadows.             it more than a month or two on the Continent. She has the
           Clara’s wish for his happiness, as soon as she had housed her-    well of enthusiasm. And there is a great advantage in having a
           self in the imagination of her freedom, was of a purity that      cultivated person at command, with whom one can chat of
           made it seem exceedingly easy for her to speak to him.            any topic under the sun. I repeat, you have no need of town if
               The opportunity was offered by Sir Willoughby. Every          you have friends like Laetitia Dale within call. My mother
           morning after breakfast Miss Dale walked across the park to       esteemed her highly.”
           see her father, and on this occasion Sir Willoughby and Miss          “Willoughby, she is not obliged to go.”
           Middleton went with her as far as the lake, all three discours-       “I hope not. And, my love, I rejoice that you have taken to
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           ing of the beauty of various trees, birches, aspens, poplars,     her. Her father’s health is poor. She would be a young spinster
           beeches, then in their new green. Miss Dale loved the aspen,      to live alone in a country cottage.”
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              “What of your scheme?”                                               “You are reconciled to his leaving you?”
              “Old Vernon is a very foolish fellow.”                               “False alarm! The resolution to do anything unaccustomed
              “He has declined?”                                              is quite beyond old Vernon.”
              “Not a word on the subject! I have only to propose it to be          “But if Mr. Oxford—Whitford . . . your swans coming
           snubbed, I know.”                                                  sailing up the lake, how beautiful they look when they are
              “You may not be aware how you throw him into the shade          indignant! I was going to ask you, surely men witnessing a
           with her.”                                                         marked admiration for some one else will naturally be dis-
              “Nothing seems to teach him the art of dialogue with la-        couraged?”
           dies.”                                                                  Sir Willoughby stiffened with sudden enlightenment.
              “Are not gentlemen shy when they see themselves out-                 Though the word jealousy had not been spoken, the drift
           shone?”                                                            of her observations was clear. Smiling inwardly, he said, and
              “He hasn’t it, my love: Vernon is deficient in the lady’s       the sentences were not enigmas to her: “Surely, too, young
           tongue.”                                                           ladies . . . a little?—Too far? But an old friendship! About
              “I respect him for that.”                                       the same as the fitting of an old glove to a hand. Hand and
              “Outshone, you say? I do not know of any shining—save           glove have only to meet. Where there is natural harmony you
           to one, who lights me, path and person!”                           would not have discord. Ay, but you have it if you check the
              The identity of the one was conveyed to her in a bow and        harmony. My dear girl! You child!”
           a soft pressure.                                                        He had actually, in this parabolic, and commendable, ob-
              “Not only has he not the lady’s tongue, which I hold to be      scureness, for which she thanked him in her soul, struck the
           a man’s proper accomplishment,” continued Sir Willoughby,          very point she had not named and did not wish to hear named,
           “he cannot turn his advantages to account. Here has Miss           but wished him to strike; he was anything but obtuse. His
           Dale been with him now four days in the house. They are            exultation, of the compressed sort, was extreme, on hearing
           exactly on the same footing as when she entered it. You ask? I     her cry out:
           will tell you. It is this: it is want of warmth. Old Vernon is a        “Young ladies may be. Oh! not I, not I. I can convince
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           scholar—and a fish. Well, perhaps he has cause to be shy of        you. Not that. Believe me, Willoughby. I do not know what
           matrimony; but he is a fish.”                                      it is to feel that, or anything like it. I cannot conceive a claim
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           194                                                                                                                             195

           on any one’s life—as a claim: or the continuation of an en-       as my Clara.”
           gagement not founded on perfect, perfect sympathy. How                “Where?” said she.
           should I feel it, then? It is, as you say of Mr. Ox—Whitford,         “During our annual two months in London. I drive a
           beyond me.”                                                       barouche there, and venture to prophesy that my equipage
               Sir Willoughby caught up the Ox—Whitford.                     will create the greatest excitement of any in London. I see old
               Bursting with laughter in his joyful pride, he called it a    Horace De Craye gazing!”
           portrait of old Vernon in society. For she thought a trifle too       She sighed. She could not drag him to the word, or a hint
           highly of Vernon, as here and there a raw young lady does         of it necessary to her subject.
           think of the friends of her plighted man, which is waste of           But there it was; she saw it. She had nearly let it go, and
           substance properly belonging to him, as it were, in the loftier   blushed at being obliged to name it.
           sense, an expenditure in genuflexions to wayside idols of the         “Jealousy, do you mean. Willoughby? the people in Lon-
           reverence she should bring intact to the temple. Derision in-     don would be jealous?—Colonel De Craye? How strange!
           structs her.                                                      That is a sentiment I cannot understand.”
               Of the other subject—her jealousy—he had no desire to             Sir Willoughby gesticulated the “Of course not” of an es-
           hear more. She had winced: the woman had been touched to          tablished assurance to the contrary.
           smarting in the girl: enough. She attempted the subject once,         “Indeed, Willoughby, I do not.”
           but faintly, and his careless parrying threw her out. Clara           “Certainly not.”
           could have bitten her tongue for that reiterated stupid slip on       He was now in her trap. And he was imagining himself to
           the name of Whitford; and because she was innocent at heart       be anatomizing her feminine nature.
           she persisted in asking herself how she could be guilty of it.        “Can I give you a proof, Willoughby? I am so utterly in-
               “You both know the botanic titles of these wild flowers,”     capable of it that—listen to me—were you to come to me to
           she said.                                                         tell me, as you might, how much better suited to you Miss
               “Who?” he inquired.                                           Dale has appeared than I am—and I fear I am not; it should
               “You and Miss Dale.”                                          be spoken plainly; unsuited altogether, perhaps—I would, I
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               Sir Willoughby shrugged. He was amused.                       beseech you to believe—you must believe me—give you . . .
               “No woman on earth will grace a barouche so exquisitely       give you your freedom instantly; most truly; and engage to
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           196                                                                                                                              197

           speak of you as I should think of you. Willoughby, you would       is, I have never heard a declaration of them, and I, am, there-
           have no one to praise you in public and in private as I should,    fore, under pain of the stigma of excessive fatuity, bound to
           for you would be to me the most honest, truthful, chivalrous       be non-cognizant. But as to myself I can speak for myself
           gentleman alive. And in that case I would undertake to de-         and, on my honour! Clara—to be as direct as possible, even to
           clare that she would not admire you more than I; Miss Dale         baldness, and you know I loathe it—I could not, I repeat, I
           would not; she would not admire you more than I; not even          could not marry Laetitia Dale! Let me impress it on you. No
           Miss Dale.”                                                        flatteries—we are all susceptible more or less—no conceiv-
               This, her first direct leap for liberty, set Clara panting,    able condition could bring it about; no amount of admira-
           and so much had she to say that the nervous and the intellec-      tion. She and I are excellent friends; we cannot be more. When
           tual halves of her dashed like cymbals, dazing and stunning        you see us together, the natural concord of our minds is of
           her with the appositeness of things to be said, and dividing       course misleading. She is a woman of genius. I do not conceal,
           her in indecision as to the cunningest to move him of the          I profess my admiration of her. There are times when, I con-
           many pressing.                                                     fess, I require a Laetitia Dale to bring me out, give and take. I
               The condition of feminine jealousy stood revealed.             am indebted to her for the enjoyment of the duet few know,
               He had driven her farther than he intended.                    few can accord with, fewer still are allowed the privilege of
               “Come, let me allay these . . .” he soothed her with hand      playing with a human being. I am indebted, I own, and I feel
           and voice, while seeking for his phrase; “these magnified pin-     deep gratitude; I own to a lively friendship for Miss Dale,
           points. Now, my Clara! on my honour! and when I put it             but if she is displeasing in the sight of my bride by . . . by the
           forward in attestation, my honour has the most serious mean-       breadth of an eyelash, then . . .”
           ing speech can have; ordinarily my word has to suffice for             Sir Willoughby’s arm waved Miss Dale off away into outer
           bonds, promises, or asseverations; on my honour! not merely        darkness in the wilderness.
           is there, my poor child! no ground of suspicion, I assure you,         Clara shut her eyes and rolled her eyeballs in a frenzy of
           I declare to you, the fact of the case is the very reverse. Now,   unuttered revolt from the Egoist.
           mark me; of her sentiments I cannot pretend to speak; I did            But she was not engaged in the colloquy to be an advocate
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           not, to my knowledge, originate, I am not responsible for them,    of Miss Dale or of common humanity.
           and I am, before the law, as we will say, ignorant of them; that       “Ah!” she said, simply determining that the subject should
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           not drop.                                                            They astonish and wound me. Your pride would not bear to
               “And, ah!” he mocked her tenderly. “True, though! And            hear them spoken of, least of all by your wife. You warned me
           who knows better than my Clara that I require youth, health,         to beware—that is, you said, you said something.”
           beauty, and the other undefinable attributes fitting with mine          Her busy brain missed the subterfuge to cover her slip of
           and beseeming the station of the lady called to preside over         the tongue.
           my household and represent me? What says my other self?                 Sir Willoughby struck in: “And when I say that the entire
           my fairer? But you are! my love, you are! Understand my              concatenation is based on an erroneous observation of facts,
           nature rightly, and you . . “                                        and an erroneous deduction from that erroneous observa-
               “I do! I do!” interposed Clara; “if I did not by this time I     tion!—? No, no. Have confidence in me. I propose it to you
           should be idiotic. Let me assure you, I understand it. Oh!           in this instance, purely to save you from deception. You are
           listen to me: one moment. Miss Dale regards me as the hap-           cold, my love? you shivered.”
           piest woman on earth. Willoughby, if I possessed her good               “I am not cold,” said Clara. “Some one, I suppose, was
           qualities, her heart and mind, no doubt I should be. It is my        walking over my grave.”
           wish—you must hear me, hear me out—my wish, my earnest                  The gulf of a caress hove in view like an enormous billow
           wish, my burning prayer, my wish to make way for her. She            hollowing under the curled ridge.
           appreciates you: I do not—to my shame, I do not. She wor-               She stooped to a buttercup; the monster swept by.
           ships you: I do not, I cannot. You are the rising sun to her. It        “Your grave!” he exclaimed over her head; “my own girl!”
           has been so for years. No one can account for love; I daresay           “Is not the orchid naturally a stranger in ground so far
           not for the impossibility of loving . . . loving where we should;    away from the chalk, Willoughby?”
           all love bewilders me. I was not created to understand it. But          “I am incompetent to pronounce an opinion on such im-
           she loves you, she has pined. I believe it has destroyed the         portant matters. My mother had a passion for every descrip-
           health you demand as one item in your list. But you,                 tion of flower. I fancy I have some recollection of her scatter-
           Willoughby, can restore that. Travelling, and . . . and your         ing the flower you mention over the park.”
           society, the pleasure of your society would certainly restore it.       “If she were living now!”
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           You look so handsome together! She has unbounded devo-                  “We should be happy in the blessing of the most esti-
           tion! as for me, I cannot idolize. I see faults: I see them daily.   mable of women, my Clara.”
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               “She would have listened to me. She would have realized        to express a sentiment of disapprobation.”
           what I mean.”                                                          “And you dismiss her.”
               “Indeed, Clara—poor soul!” he murmured to himself,                 “I dismiss her. That is, as to the word, I constitute myself
           aloud; “indeed you are absolutely in error. If I have seemed—      your echo, to clear any vestige of suspicion. She goes.”
           but I repeat, you are deceived. The idea of ‘fitness’ is a total       “That is a case of a person doomed to extinction without
           hallucination. Supposing you—I do it even in play painfully—       offending.”
           entirely out of the way, unthought of. . .”                            “Not without: for whoever offends my bride, my wife, my
               “Extinct,” Clara said low.                                     sovereign lady, offends me: very deeply offends me.”
               “Non-existent for me,” he selected a preferable term. “Sup-        “Then the caprices of your wife . . .” Clara stamped her
           pose it; I should still, in spite of an admiration I have never    foot imperceptibly on the lawn-sward, which was
           thought it incumbent on me to conceal, still be—I speak            irresponsively soft to her fretfulness. She broke from the in-
           emphatically—utterly incapable of the offer of my hand to          consequent meaningless mild tone of irony, and said:
           Miss Dale. It may be that she is embedded in my mind as a          “Willoughby, women have their honour to swear by equally
           friend, and nothing but a friend. I received the stamp in early    with men:—girls have: they have to swear an oath at the altar;
           youth. People have noticed it—we do, it seems, bring one           may I to you now? Take it for uttered when I tell you that
           another out, reflecting, counter-reflecting.”                      nothing would make me happier than your union with Miss
               She glanced up at him with a shrewd satisfaction to see        Dale. I have spoken as much as I can. Tell me you release me.”
           that her wicked shaft had stuck.                                       With the well-known screw-smile of duty upholding wea-
               “You do; it is a common remark,” she said. “The instanta-      riness worn to inanition, he rejoined: “Allow me once more to
           neous difference when she comes near, any one might notice.”       reiterate, that it is repulsive, inconceivable, that I should ever,
               “My love,” he opened the iron gate into the garden, “you       under any mortal conditions, bring myself to the point of
           encourage the naughty little suspicion.”                           taking Miss Dale for my wife. You reduce me to this perfectly
               “But it is a beautiful sight, Willoughby. I like to see you    childish protestation—pitiably childish! But, my love, have I
           together. I like it as I like to see colours match.”               to remind you that you and I are plighted, and that I am an
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               “Very well. There is no harm then. We shall often be to-       honourable man?”
           gether. I like my fair friend. But the instant!—you have only          “I know it, I feel it—release me!” cried Clara.
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           202                                                                                                                              203

               Sir Willoughby severely reprehended his short-sightedness      assured. You can hardly have taken me seriously when I re-
           for seeing but the one proximate object in the particular at-      quested you to undertake Vernon before. I was quite in ear-
           tention he had bestowed on Miss Dale. He could not disavow         nest then as now. I prepare Miss Dale. I will not have a wed-
           that they had been marked, and with an object, and he was          ding on our wedding-day; but either before or after it, I gladly
           distressed by the unwonted want of wisdom through which            speed their alliance. I think now I give you the best proof
           he had been drawn to overshoot his object. His design to ex-       possible, and though I know that with women a delusion may
           cite a touch of the insane emotion in Clara’s bosom was too        be seen to be groundless and still be cherished, I rely on your
           successful, and, “I was not thinking of her,” he said to himself   good sense.”
           in his candour, contrite.                                              Vernon was at the window and stood aside for her to en-
               She cried again: “Will you not, Willoughby—release me?”        ter. Sir Willoughby used a gentle insistence with her. She
               He begged her to take his arm.                                 bent her head as if she were stepping into a cave. So frigid was
               To consent to touch him while petitioning for a detach-        she, that a ridiculous dread of calling Mr. Whitford Mr. Ox-
           ment, appeared discordant to Clara, but, if she expected him       ford was her only present anxiety when Sir Willoughby had
           to accede, it was right that she should do as much as she          closed the window on them.
           could, and she surrendered her hand at arm’s length, disdain-
           ing the imprisoned fingers. He pressed them and said: “Dr
           Middleton is in the library. I see Vernon is at work with
           Crossjay in the West-room—the boy has had sufficient for
           the day. Now, is it not like old Vernon to drive his books at a
           cracked head before it’s half mended?”
               He signalled to young Crossjay, who was up and out
           through the folding windows in a twinkling.
               “And you will go in, and talk to Vernon of the lady in
           question,” Sir Willoughby whispered to Clara. “Use your best
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           persuasions in our joint names. You have my warrant for say-
           ing that money is no consideration; house and income are
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           204                                                                                                                           205

                                                                           household furniture, are positive fetters; the possession of a
                                                                           wife we find surcharged with obligation. In all these cases
                                                                           possession is a gentle term for enslavement, bestowing the
                                                                           sort of felicity attained to by the helot drunk. You can have
                                                                           the joy, the pride, the intoxication of possession; you can have
                                                                           no free soul.
                                                                               But there is one instance of possession, and that the most
                                                                           perfect, which leaves us free, under not a shadow of obliga-
                                                                           tion, receiving ever, never giving, or if giving, giving only of
                                                                           our waste; as it were (sauf votre respect), by form of perspira-
                              Chapter 14.                                  tion, radiation, if you like; unconscious poral bountifulness;
                              Sir Willoughby and Laetitia.                 and it is a beneficent process for the system. Our possession
                                                                           of an adoring female’s worship is this instance.
              “I prepare Miss Dale.”                                           The soft cherishable Parsee is hardly at any season other
              Sir Willoughby thought of his promise to Clara. He trifled   than prostrate. She craves nothing save that you continue in
           awhile with young Crossjay, and then sent the boy flying,       being—her sun: which is your firm constitutional endeavour:
           and wrapped himself in meditation. So shall you see standing    and thus you have a most exact alliance; she supplying spirit
           many a statue of statesmen who have died in harness for their   to your matter, while at the same time presenting matter to
           country.                                                        your spirit, verily a comfortable apposition. The Gods do bless
              In the hundred and fourth chapter of the thirteenth vol-     it.
           ume of the Book of Egoism it is written: Possession without         That they do so indeed is evident in the men they select
           obligation to the object possessed approaches felicity.         for such a felicitous crown and aureole. Weak men would be
              It is the rarest condition of ownership. For example: the    rendered nervous by the flattery of a woman’s worship; or
                                                                           they would be for returning it, at least partially, as though it
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           possession of land is not without obligation both to the soil
           and the tax-collector; the possession of fine clothing is op-   could be bandied to and fro without emulgence of the po-
           pressed by obligation; gold, jewelry, works of art, enviable    etry; or they would be pitiful, and quite spoil the thing. Some
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           206                                                                                                                               207

           would be for transforming the beautiful solitary vestal flame       august great robes back-flowing and foaming over the gaspy
           by the first effort of the multiplication-table into your hearth-   page-boys.
           fire of slippered affection. So these men are not they whom             Further to quote from the same volume of The Book: There
           the Gods have ever selected, but rather men of a pattern with       is pain in the surrendering of that we are fain to relinquish.
           themselves, very high and very solid men, who maintain the              The idea is too exquisitely attenuate, as are those of the
           crown by holding divinely independent of the great emotion          whole body-guard of the heart of Egoism, and will slip through
           they have sown.                                                     you unless you shall have made a study of the gross of vol-
               Even for them a pass of danger is ahead, as we shall see in     umes of the first and second sections of The Book, and that
           our sample of one among the highest of them.                        will take you up to senility; or you must make a personal
               A clear approach to felicity had long been the portion of       entry into the pages, perchance; or an escape out of them.
           Sir Willoughby Patterne in his relations with Laetitia Dale.        There was once a venerable gentleman for whom a white hair
           She belonged to him; he was quite unshackled by her. She            grew on the cop of his nose, laughing at removals. He re-
           was everything that is good in a parasite, nothing that is bad.     signed himself to it in the end, and lastingly contemplated
           His dedicated critic she was, reviewing him with a favour equal     the apparition. It does not concern us what effect was pro-
           to perfect efficiency in her office; and whatever the world         duced on his countenance and his mind; enough that he saw
           might say of him, to her the happy gentleman could con-             a fine thing, but not so fine as the idea cited above; which has
           stantly turn for his refreshing balsamic bath. She flew to the      been between the two eyes of humanity ever since women
           soul in him, pleasingly arousing sensations of that inhabitant;     were sought in marriage. With yonder old gentleman it may
           and he allowed her the right to fly, in the manner of kings, as     have been a ghostly hair or a disease of the optic nerves; but
           we have heard, consenting to the privileges acted on by cats.       for us it is a real growth, and humanity might profitably imi-
           These may not address their Majesties, but they may stare;          tate him in his patient speculation upon it.
           nor will it be contested that the attentive circular eyes of the        Sir Willoughby Patterne, though ready in the pursuit of
           humble domestic creatures are an embellishment to Royal             duty and policy (an oft-united couple) to cast Miss Dale away,
           pomp and grandeur, such truly as should one day gain for            had to consider that he was not simply, so to speak, casting
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           them an inweaving and figurement—in the place of bees, er-          her over a hedge, he was casting her for a man to catch her;
           mine tufts, and their various present decorations—upon the          and this was a much greater trial than it had been on the
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           208                                                                                                                               209

           previous occasion, when she went over bump to the ground.          tain a mixture of the essences of these creatures; and if, as it is
           In the arms of a husband, there was no knowing how soon she        possible to do, and as he had been doing recently with the
           might forget her soul’s fidelity. It had not hurt him to sketch    pair of them at the Hall, you stew them in one pot, you are
           the project of the conjunction; benevolence assisted him; but      far likelier to intensify their little birthmarks of individuality.
           he winced and smarted on seeing it take shape. It sullied his      Had they a tendency to excellence it might be otherwise;
           idea of Laetitia.                                                  they might then make the exchanges we wish for; or scientifi-
               Still, if, in spite of so great a change in her fortune, her   cally concocted in a harem for a sufficient length of time by a
           spirit could be guaranteed changeless, he, for the sake of paci-   sultan anything but obtuse, they might. It is, however, fruit-
           fying his bride, and to keep two serviceable persons near him,     less to dwell on what was only a glimpse of a wild regret, like
           at command, might resolve to join them. The vision of his          the crossing of two express trains along the rails in Sir
           resolution brought with it a certain pallid contempt of the        Willoughby’s head.
           physically faithless woman; no wonder he betook himself to             The ladies Eleanor and Isabel were sitting with Miss Dale,
           The Book, and opened it on the scorching chapters treating         all three at work on embroideries. He had merely to look at
           of the sex, and the execrable wiles of that foremost creature of   Miss Eleanor. She rose. She looked at Miss Isabel, and rattled
           the chase, who runs for life. She is not spared in the Biggest     her chatelaine to account for her departure. After a decent
           of Books. But close it.                                            interval Miss Isabel glided out. Such was the perfect disci-
               The writing in it having been done chiefly by men, men         pline of the household.
           naturally receive their fortification from its wisdom, and half        Sir Willoughby played an air on the knee of his crossed
           a dozen of the popular sentences for the confusion of women        leg.
           (cut in brass worn to a polish like sombre gold), refreshed Sir        Laetitia grew conscious of a meaning in the silence. She
           Willoughby for his undertaking.                                    said, “You have not been vexed by affairs to-day?”
               An examination of Laetitia’s faded complexion braced him           “Affairs,” he replied, “must be peculiarly vexatious to
           very cordially.                                                    trouble me. Concerning the country or my personal affairs?”
               His Clara, jealous of this poor leaf!                              “I fancy I was alluding to the country.”
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               He could have desired the transfusion of a quality or two          “I trust I am as good a patriot as any man living,” said he;
           from Laetitia to his bride; but you cannot, as in cookery, ob-     “but I am used to the follies of my countrymen, and we are
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           210                                                                                                                               211

           on board a stout ship. At the worst it’s no worse than a rise in        “Will you smile to reassure me?”
           rates and taxes; soup at the Hall gates, perhaps; license to fell       “Willingly, as well as I can.”
           timber in one of the outer copses, or some dozen loads of coal.         A gloom overcame him. With no woman on earth did he
           You hit my feudalism.”                                              shine so as to recall to himself seigneur and dame of the old
               “The knight in armour has gone,” said Laetitia, “and the        French Court as he did with Laetitia Dale. He did not wish
           castle with the draw-bridge. Immunity for our island has gone       the period revived, but reserved it as a garden to stray into
           too since we took to commerce.”                                     when he was in the mood for displaying elegance and bright-
               “We bartered independence for commerce. You hit our             ness in the society of a lady; and in speech Laetitia helped
           old controversy. Ay, but we do not want this overgrown popu-        him to the nice delusion. She was not devoid of grace of bear-
           lation! However, we will put politics and sociology and the         ing either.
           pack of their modern barbarous words aside. You read me                 Would she preserve her beautiful responsiveness to his
           intuitively. I have been, I will not say annoyed, but ruffled. I    ascendency? Hitherto she had, and for years, and quite fresh.
           have much to do, and going into Parliament would make me            But how of her as a married woman? Our souls are hideously
           almost helpless if I lose Vernon. You know of some absurd           subject to the conditions of our animal nature! A wife, possi-
           notion he has?—literary fame, and bachelor’s chambers, and          bly mother, it was within sober calculation that there would
           a chop-house, and the rest of it.”                                  be great changes in her. And the hint of any change appeared
               She knew, and thinking differently in the matter of liter-      a total change to one of the lofty order who, when they are
           ary fame, she flushed, and, ashamed of the flush, frowned.          called on to relinquish possession instead of aspiring to it, say,
               He bent over to her with the perusing earnestness of a          All or nothing!
           gentleman about to trifle.                                              Well, but if there was danger of the marriage-tie effecting
               “You cannot intend that frown?”                                 the slightest alteration of her character or habit of mind, where-
               “Did I frown?”                                                  fore press it upon a tolerably hardened spinster!
               “You do.”                                                           Besides, though he did once put her hand in Vernon’s for
               “Now?”                                                          the dance, he remembered acutely that the injury then done
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               “Fiercely.”                                                     by his generosity to his tender sensitiveness had sickened and
               “Oh!”                                                           tarnished the effulgence of two or three successive anniversa-
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           212                                                                                                                              213

           ries of his coming of age. Nor had he altogether yet got over      ing, I mean,” he bowed to the authoress. “Let him leave the
           the passion of greed for the whole group of the well-favoured      house, if he imagines he will not harmonize with its young
           of the fair sex, which in his early youth had made it bitter for   mistress. He is queer, though a good fellow. But he ought, in
           him to submit to the fickleness, not to say the modest fickle-     that event, to have an establishment. And my scheme for
           ness, of any handsome one of them in yielding her hand to a        Vernon—men, Miss Dale, do not change to their old friends
           man and suffering herself to be led away. Ladies whom he           when they marry—my scheme, which would cause the alter-
           had only heard of as ladies of some beauty incurred his wrath      ation in his system of life to be barely perceptible, is to build
           for having lovers or taking husbands. He was of a vast em-         him a poetical little cottage, large enough for a couple, on the
           brace; and do not exclaim, in covetousness;—for well he knew       borders of my park. I have the spot in my eye. The point is,
           that even under Moslem law he could not have them all—             can he live alone there? Men, I say, do not change. How is it
           but as the enamoured custodian of the sex’s purity, that blushes   that we cannot say the same of women?”
           at such big spots as lovers and husbands; and it was unbear-           Laetitia remarked: “The generic woman appears to have
           able to see it sacrificed for others. Without their purity what    an extraordinary faculty for swallowing the individual.”
           are they!—what are fruiterer’s plums?—unsaleable. O for the            “As to the individual, as to a particular person, I may be
           bloom on them!                                                     wrong. Precisely because it is her case I think of, my strong
               “As I said, I lose my right hand in Vernon,” he resumed,       friendship inspires the fear: unworthy of both, no doubt, but
           “and I am, it seems, inevitably to lose him, unless we contrive    trace it to the source. Even pure friendship, such is the taint
           to fasten him down here. I think, my dear Miss Dale, you           in us, knows a kind of jealousy; though I would gladly see her
           have my character. At least, I should recommend my future          established, and near me, happy and contributing to my hap-
           biographer to you—with a caution, of course. You would have        piness with her incomparable social charm. Her I do not esti-
           to write selfishness with a dash under it. I cannot endure to      mate generically, be sure.”
           lose a member of my household—not under any circumstances;             “If you do me the honour to allude to me, Sir Willoughby,”
           and a change of feeling toward me on the part of any of my         said Laetitia, “I am my father’s housemate.”
           friends because of marriage, I think hard. I would ask you,            “What wooer would take that for a refusal? He would beg
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           how can it be for Vernon’s good to quit an easy pleasant home      to be a third in the house and sharer of your affectionate
           for the wretched profession of Literature?—wretchedly pay-         burden. Honestly, why not? And I may be arguing against
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           214                                                                                                                                  215

           my own happiness; it may be the end of me!”                           cord; and to bear about a melody in your person is incompa-
               “The end?”                                                        rably more searching than the best of touchstones and talis-
               “Old friends are captious, exacting. No, not the end. Yet if      mans ever invented. “Your father’s health has improved lat-
           my friend is not the same to me, it is the end to that form of        terly?”
           friendship: not to the degree possibly. But when one is used              “He did not complain of his health when I saw him this
           to the form! And do you, in its application to friendship,            morning. My cousin Amelia is with him, and she is an excel-
           scorn the word ‘use’? We are creatures of custom. I am, I             lent nurse.”
           confess, a poltroon in my affections; I dread changes. The                “He has a liking for Vernon.”
           shadow of the tenth of an inch in the customary elevation of              “He has a great respect for Mr. Whitford.”
           an eyelid!—to give you an idea of my susceptibility. And, my              “You have?”
           dear Miss Dale, I throw myself on your charity, with all my               “Oh, yes; I have it equally.”
           weakness bare, let me add, as I could do to none but you.                 “For a foundation, that is the surest. I would have the friends
           Consider, then, if I lose you! The fear is due to my pusilla-         dearest to me begin on that. The headlong match is—how
           nimity entirely. High-souled women may be wives, mothers,             can we describe it? By its finale I am afraid. Vernon’s abilities
           and still reserve that home for their friend. They can and will       are really to be respected. His shyness is his malady. I suppose
           conquer the viler conditions of human life. Our states, I have        he reflected that he was not a capitalist. He might, one would
           always contended, our various phases have to be passed                think, have addressed himself to me; my purse is not locked.”
           through, and there is no disgrace in it so long as they do not            “No, Sir Willoughby!” Laetitia said, warmly, for his dona-
           levy toll on the quintessential, the spiritual element. You un-       tions in charity were famous.
           derstand me? I am no adept in these abstract elucidations.”               Her eyes gave him the food he enjoyed, and basking in
               “You explain yourself clearly,” said Laetitia.                    them, he continued:
               “I have never pretended that psychology was my forte,”                “Vernon’s income would at once have been regulated com-
           said he, feeling overshadowed by her cold commendation: he            mensurately with a new position requiring an increase. This
           was not less acutely sensitive to the fractional divisions of tones   money, money, money! But the world will have it so. Happily
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           than of eyelids, being, as it were, a melody with which every-        I have inherited habits of business and personal economy.
           thing was out of tune that did not modestly or mutely ac-             Vernon is a man who would do fifty times more with a com-
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           216                                                                                                                              217

           panion appreciating his abilities and making light of his little   acter. As when the player’s finger rests in distraction on the
           deficiencies. They are palpable, small enough. He has always       organ, it was without measure and disgusted his own hearing.
           been aware of my wishes:—when perhaps the fulfilment might         Nevertheless, she had been so good as to diminish his appre-
           have sent me off on another tour of the world, homebird            hension that the marriage of a lady in her thirtieth year with
           though I am. When was it that our friendship commenced?            his cousin Vernon would be so much of a loss to him; hence,
           In my boyhood, I know. Very many years back.”                      while parading the lawn, now and then casting an eye at the
               “I am in my thirtieth year,” said Laetitia.                    window of the room where his Clara and Vernon were in
               Surprised and pained by a baldness resembling the deeds        council, the schemes he indulged for his prospective comfort
           of ladies (they have been known, either through absence of         and his feelings of the moment were in such striving har-
           mind, or mania, to displace a wig) in the deadly intimacy          mony as that to which we hear orchestral musicians bringing
           which slaughters poetic admiration, Sir Willoughby punished        their instruments under the process called tuning. It is not
           her by deliberately reckoning that she did not look less.          perfect, but it promises to be so soon. We are not angels,
               “Genius,” he observed, “is unacquainted with wrinkles”;        which have their dulcimers ever on the choral pitch. We are
           hardly one of his prettiest speeches; but he had been wounded,     mortals attaining the celestial accord with effort, through a
           and he never could recover immediately. Coming on him in a         stage of pain. Some degree of pain was necessary to Sir
           mood of sentiment, the wound was sharp. He could very well         Willoughby, otherwise he would not have seen his generosity
           have calculated the lady’s age. It was the jarring clash of her    confronting him. He grew, therefore, tenderly inclined to
           brazen declaration of it upon his low rich flute-notes that        Laetitia once more, so far as to say within himself. “For con-
           shocked him.                                                       versation she would be a valuable wife”. And this valuable
               He glanced at the gold cathedral-clock on the mantel-          wife he was presenting to his cousin.
           piece, and proposed a stroll on the lawn before dinner. Laetitia       Apparently, considering the duration of the conference of
           gathered up her embroidery work.                                   his Clara and Vernon, his cousin required strong persuasion
               “As a rule,” he said, “authoresses are not needle-women.”      to accept the present.
               “I shall resign the needle or the pen if it stamps me an
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           exception,” she replied.
               He attempted a compliment on her truly exceptional char-
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           218                                                                                                                             219

                                                                                 “Then we may rise,” remarked Sir Willoughby.
                                                                                 “She was weeping,” Miss Isabel murmured to him.
                                                                                 “Girlish enough,” he said.
                                                                                 The two elderly ladies went away together. Miss Dale,
                                                                             pursuing her theme with the Rev. Doctor, was invited by him
                                                                             to a course in the library. Sir Willoughby walked up and down
                                                                             the lawn, taking a glance at the West-room as he swung round
                                                                             on the turn of his leg. Growing impatient, he looked in at the
                                                                             window and found the room vacant.
                                                                                 Nothing was to be seen of Clara and Vernon during the
                               Chapter 15.                                   afternoon. Near the dinner-hour the ladies were informed by
                                  The petition for a release.                Miss Middleton’s maid that her mistress was lying down on
                                                                             her bed, too unwell with headache to be present. Young
               Neither Clara nor Vernon appeared at the mid-day table.       Crossjay brought a message from Vernon (delayed by birds’
           Dr. Middleton talked with Miss Dale on classical matters,         eggs in the delivery), to say that he was off over the hills, and
           like a good-natured giant giving a child the jump from stone      thought of dining with Dr. Corney.
           to stone across a brawling mountain ford, so that an unedified        Sir Willoughby despatched condolences to his bride. He
           audience might really suppose, upon seeing her over the dif-      was not well able to employ his mind on its customary topic,
           ficulty, she had done something for herself. Sir Willoughby       being, like the dome of a bell, a man of so pervading a ring
           was proud of her, and therefore anxious to settle her business    within himself concerning himself, that the recollection of a
           while he was in the humour to lose her. He hoped to finish it     doubtful speech or unpleasant circumstance touching him
           by shooting a word or two at Vernon before dinner. Clara’s        closely deranged his inward peace; and as dubious and un-
           petition to be set free, released from him, had vaguely fright-   pleasant things will often occur, be had great need of a wor-
                                                                             shipper, and was often compelled to appeal to her for signs of
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           ened even more than it offended his pride.
               Miss Isabel quitted the room.                                 antidotal idolatry. In this instance, when the need of a wor-
               She came back, saying: “They decline to lunch.”               shipper was sharply felt, he obtained no signs at all. The Rev.
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           220                                                                                                                               221

           Doctor had fascinated Miss Dale; so that, both within and           ers to the learned talk, saw the necessity of coming to his
           without, Sir Willoughby was uncomforted. His themes in              rescue; but you cannot converse with your aunts, inmates of
           public were those of an English gentleman; horses, dogs, game,      your house, on general subjects at table; the attempt increased
           sport, intrigue, scandal, politics, wines, the manly themes; with   his discomposure; he considered that he had ill-chosen his
           a condescension to ladies’ tattle, and approbation of a racy        father-in-law; that scholars are an impolite race; that young
           anecdote. What interest could he possibly take in the Athe-         or youngish women are devotees of power in any form, and
           nian Theatre and the girl whose flute-playing behind the            will be absorbed by a scholar for a variation of a man; con-
           scenes, imitating the nightingale, enraptured a Greek audi-         cluding that he must have a round of dinner-parties to friends,
           ence! He would have suspected a motive in Miss Dale’s eager         especially ladies, appreciating him, during the Doctor’s visit.
           attentiveness, if the motive could have been conceived. Be-         Clara’s headache above, and Dr. Middleton’s unmannerliness
           sides, the ancients were not decorous; they did not, as we          below, affected his instincts in a way to make him apprehend
           make our moderns do, write for ladies. He ventured at the           that a stroke of misfortune was impending; thunder was in
           dinner-table to interrupt Dr. Middleton once:—                      the air. Still he learned something, by which he was to profit
               “Miss Dale will do wisely, I think, sir, by confining herself   subsequently. The topic of wine withdrew the doctor from
           to your present edition of the classics.”                           his classics; it was magical on him. A strong fraternity of taste
               “That,” replied Dr. Middleton, “is the observation of a         was discovered in the sentiments of host and guest upon par-
           student of the dictionary of classical mythology in the En-         ticular wines and vintages; they kindled one another by nam-
           glish tongue.”                                                      ing great years of the grape, and if Sir Willoughby had to
               “The Theatre is a matter of climate, sir. You will grant me     sacrifice the ladies to the topic, he much regretted a condition
           that.”                                                              of things that compelled him to sin against his habit, for the
               “If quick wits come of climate, it is as you say, sir.”         sake of being in the conversation and probing an elderly
               “With us it seems a matter of painful fostering, or the         gentleman’s foible.
           need of it,” said Miss Dale, with a question to Dr. Middleton,          Late at night he heard the house-bell, and meeting Vernon
           excluding Sir Willoughby, as though he had been a tempo-            in the hall, invited him to enter the laboratory and tell him
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           rary disturbance of the flow of their dialogue.                     Dr. Corney’s last. Vernon was brief, Corney had not let fly a
               The ladies Eleanor and Isabel, previously excellent listen-     single anecdote, he said, and lighted his candle.
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           222                                                                                                                             223

               “By the way, Vernon, you had a talk with Miss Middleton?”     cadilloes. He had done it to edify her. Sleep, however, failed
               “She will speak to you to-morrow at twelve.”                  him. That an inordinate jealousy argued an overpowering love,
               “To-morrow at twelve?”                                        solved his problem until he tried to fit the proposition to
               “It gives her four-and-twenty hours.”                         Clara’s character. He had discerned nothing southern in her.
               Sir Willoughby determined that his perplexity should be       Latterly, with the blushing Day in prospect, she had con-
           seen; but Vernon said good-night to him, and was shooting         tracted and frozen. There was no reading either of her or of
           up the stairs before the dramatic exhibition of surprise had      the mystery.
           yielded to speech.                                                    In the morning, at the breakfast-table, a confession of
               Thunder was in the air and a blow coming. Sir                 sleeplessness was general. Excepting Miss Dale and Dr.
           Willoughby’s instincts were awake to the many signs, nor,         Middleton, none had slept a wink. “I, sir,” the Doctor replied
           though silenced, were they hushed by his harping on the frantic   to Sir Willoughby, “slept like a lexicon in your library when
           excesses to which women are driven by the passion of jeal-        Mr. Whitford and I are out of it.”
           ousy. He believed in Clara’s jealousy because he really had           Vernon incidentally mentioned that he had been writing
           intended to rouse it; under the form of emulation, feebly. He     through the night.
           could not suppose she had spoken of it to Vernon. And as for          “You fellows kill yourselves,” Sir Willoughby reproved him.
           the seriousness of her desire to be released from her engage-     “For my part, I make it a principle to get through my work
           ment, that was little credible. Still the fixing of an hour for   without self-slaughter.”
           her to speak to him after an interval of four-and-twenty hours,       Clara watched her father for a symptom of ridicule. He
           left an opening for the incredible to add its weight to the       gazed mildly on the systematic worker. She was unable to
           suspicious mass; and who would have fancied Clara Middleton       guess whether she would have in him an ally or a judge. The
           so wild a victim of the intemperate passion! He muttered to       latter, she feared. Now that she had embraced the strife, she
           himself several assuaging observations to excuse a young lady     saw the division of the line where she stood from that one
           half demented, and rejected them in a lump for their nonsen-      where the world places girls who are affianced wives; her fa-
           sical inapplicability to Clara. In order to obtain some sleep,    ther could hardly be with her; it had gone too far. He loved
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           he consented to blame himself slightly, in the style of the       her, but he would certainly take her to be moved by a maddish
           enamoured historian of erring beauties alluding to their pec-     whim; he would not try to understand her case. The scholar’s
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           224                                                                                                                              225

           detestation of a disarrangement of human affairs that had          yet remember that though the words had not been uttered to
           been by miracle contrived to run smoothly, would of itself         give her good reason for it, nature reads nature; captives may
           rank him against her; and with the world to back his view of       be stript of everything save that power to read their tyrant;
           her, he might behave like a despotic father. How could she         remember also that she was not, as she well knew, blameless;
           defend herself before him? At one thought of Sir Willoughby,       her rage at him was partly against herself
           her tongue made ready, and feminine craft was alert to prompt         The rising from table left her to Sir Willoughby. She swam
           it; but to her father she could imagine herself opposing only      away after Miss Dale, exclaiming: “The laboratory! Will you
           dumbness and obstinacy.                                            have me for a companion on your walk to see your father?
               “It is not exactly the same kind of work,” she said.           One breathes earth and heaven to-day out of doors. Isn’t it
               Dr Middleton rewarded her with a bushy eyebrow’s beam          Summer with a Spring Breeze? I will wander about your gar-
           of his revolting humour at the baronet’s notion of work.           den and not hurry your visit, I promise.”
               So little was needed to quicken her that she sunned her-          “I shall be very happy indeed. But I am going immedi-
           self in the beam, coaxing her father’s eyes to stay with hers as   ately,” said Laetitia, seeing Sir Willoughby hovering to snap
           long as she could, and beginning to hope he might be won to        up his bride.
           her side, if she confessed she had been more in the wrong             “Yes; and a garden-hat and I am on the march.”
           than she felt; owned to him, that is, her error in not earlier        “I will wait for you on the terrace.”
           disturbing his peace.                                                 “You will not have to wait.”
               “I do not say it is the same,” observed Sir Willoughby,           “Five minutes at the most,” Sir Willoughby said to Laetitia,
           bowing to their alliance of opinion. “My poor work is for the      and she passed out, leaving them alone together.
           day, and Vernon’s, no doubt, for the day to come. I contend,          “Well, and my love!” he addressed his bride almost
           nevertheless, for the preservation of health as the chief imple-   huggingly; “and what is the story? and how did you succeed
           ment of work.”                                                     with old Vernon yesterday? He will and he won’t? He’s a very
               “Of continued work; there I agree with you,” said Dr.          woman in these affairs. I can’t forgive him for giving you a
           Middleton, cordially.                                              headache. You were found weeping.”
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               Clara’s heart sunk; so little was needed to deaden her.           “Yes, I cried,” said Clara.
               Accuse her of an overweening antagonism to her betrothed;         “And now tell me about it. You know, my dear girl, whether
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           226                                                                                                                                227

           he does or doesn’t, our keeping him somewhere in the                    “Time shall stop rather than interfere with our conversa-
           neighbourhood—perhaps not in the house—that is the ma-             tion! ‘The breaking . . .’! But it’s a sort of sacrilege to speak of
           terial point. It can hardly be necessary in these days to urge     it.”
           marriages on. I’m sure the country is over . . . Most marriages         “That I feel; yet it has to be spoken of ”
           ought to be celebrated with the funeral knell!”                         “Sometimes? Why? I can’t conceive the occasion. You know,
               “I think so,” said Clara.                                      to me, Clara, plighted faith, the affiancing of two lovers, is a
               “It will come to this, that marriages of consequence, and      piece of religion. I rank it as holy as marriage; nay, to me it is
           none but those, will be hailed with joyful peals.”                 holier; I really cannot tell you how; I can only appeal to you
               “Do not say such things in public, Willoughby.”                in your bosom to understand me. We read of divorces with
               “Only to you, to you! Don’t think me likely to expose myself   comparative indifference. They occur between couples who
           to the world. Well, and I sounded Miss Dale, and there will        have rubbed off all romance.”
           be no violent obstacle. And now about Vernon?”                          She could have asked him in her fit of ironic iciness, on
               “I will speak to you, Willoughby, when I return from my        hearing him thus blindly challenge her to speak out, whether
           walk with Miss Dale, soon after twelve.”                           the romance might be his piece of religion.
               “Twelve!” said he                                                   He propitiated the more unwarlike sentiments in her by
               “I name an hour. It seems childish. I can explain it. But it   ejaculating, “Poor souls! let them go their several ways. Mar-
           is named, I cannot deny, because I am a rather childish per-       ried people no longer lovers are in the category of the un-
           son perhaps, and have it prescribed to me to delay my speak-       nameable. But the hint of the breaking of an engagement—
           ing for a certain length of time. I may tell you at once that      our engagement!—between us? Oh!”
           Mr. Whitford is not to be persuaded by me, and the breaking             “Oh!” Clara came out with a swan’s note swelling over
           of our engagement would not induce him to remain.”                 mechanical imitation of him to dolorousness illimitable. “Oh!”
               “Vernon used those words?”                                     she breathed short, “let it be now. Do not speak till you have
               “It was I.”                                                    heard me. My head may not be clear by-and-by. And two
               “‘The breaking of our engagement!’ Come into the labo-         scenes—twice will be beyond my endurance. I am penitent
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           ratory, my love.”                                                  for the wrong I have done you. I grieve for you. All the blame
               “I shall not have time.”                                       is mine. Willoughby, you must release me. Do not let me
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           228                                                                                                                              229

           hear a word of that word; jealousy is unknown to me . . .          me, that my prayer is for liberty, that I may not be tied. If
           Happy if I could call you friend and see you with a worthier       you can release and pardon me, or promise ultimately to par-
           than I, who might by-and-by call me friend! You have my            don me, or say some kind word, I shall know it is because I
           plighted troth . . . given in ignorance of my feelings. Repro-     am beneath you utterly that I have been unable to give you
           bate a weak and foolish girl’s ignorance. I have thought of it,    the love you should have with a wife. Only say to me, go! It is
           and I cannot see wickedness, though the blame is great, shame-     you who break the match, discovering my want of a heart.
           ful. You have none. You are without any blame. You will not        What people think of me matters little. My anxiety will be
           suffer as I do. You will be generous to me? I have no respect      to save you annoyance.”
           for myself when I beg you to be generous and release me.”              She waited for him; he seemed on the verge of speaking.
               “But was this the . . .” Willoughby preserved his calmness,        He perceived her expectation; he had nothing but clown-
           “this, then, the subject of your interview with Vernon?”           ish tumult within, and his dignity counselled him to disap-
               “I have spoken to him. I did my commission, and I spoke        point her.
           to him.”                                                               Swaying his head, like the oriental palm whose shade is a
               “Of me?”                                                       blessing to the perfervid wanderer below, smiling gravely, he
               “Of myself. I see how I hurt you; I could not avoid it. Yes,   was indirectly asking his dignity what he could say to main-
           of you, as far as we are related. I said I believed you would      tain it and deal this mad young woman a bitterly compas-
           release me. I said I could he true to my plighted word, but        sionate rebuke. What to think, hung remoter. The thing to
           that you would not insist. Could a gentleman insist? But not       do struck him first.
           a step beyond; not love; I have none. And, Willoughby, treat           He squeezed both her hands, threw the door wide open,
           me as one perfectly worthless; I am. I should have known it a      and said, with countless blinkings: “In the laboratory we are
           year back. I was deceived in myself. There should be love.”        uninterrupted. I was at a loss to guess where that most un-
               “Should be!” Willoughby’s tone was a pungent comment           pleasant effect on the senses came from. They are always ‘guess-
           on her.                                                            ing’ through the nose. I mean, the remainder of breakfast here.
               “Love, then, I find I have not. I think I am antagonistic to   Perhaps I satirized them too smartly—if you know the let-
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           it. What people say of it I have not experienced. I find I was     ters. When they are not ‘calculating’. More offensive than
           mistaken. It is lightly said, but very painful. You understand     debris of a midnight banquet! An American tour is instruc-
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           230                                                                                                                                 231

           tive, though not so romantic. Not so romantic as Italy, I mean.       better—instead of later?”
           Let us escape.”                                                           He took advantage of her modesty in speaking to exclaim.
               She held back from his arm. She had scattered his brains;         “Where are we now? Bride is bride, and wife is wife, and
           it was pitiable: but she was in the torrent and could not suffer      affianced is, in honour, wedded. You cannot be released. We
           a pause or a change of place.                                         are united. Recognize it; united. There is no possibility of
               “It must be here; one minute more—I cannot go else-               releasing a wife!”
           where to begin again. Speak to me here; answer my request.                “Not if she ran . . . ?”
           Once; one word. If you forgive me, it will be superhuman.                 This was too direct to be histrionically misunderstood. He
           But, release me.”                                                     had driven her to the extremity of more distinctly imagining
               “Seriously,” he rejoined, “tea-cups and coffee-cups,              the circumstance she had cited, and with that cleared view
           breadcrumbs. egg-shells, caviare, butter, beef, bacon! Can we?        the desperate creature gloried in launching such a bolt at the
           The room reeks.”                                                      man’s real or assumed insensibility as must, by shivering it,
               “Then I will go for my walk with Miss Dale. And you will          waken him.
           speak to me when I return?”                                               But in a moment she stood in burning rose, with dimmed
               “At all seasons. You shall go with Miss Dale. But, my dear!       eyesight. She saw his horror, and, seeing, shared it; shared just
           my love! Seriously, where are we? One hears of lover’s quar-          then only by seeing it; which led her to rejoice with the deep-
           rels. Now I never quarrel. It is a characteristic of mine. And        est of sighs that some shame was left in her.
           you speak of me to my cousin Vernon! Seriously, plighted                  “Ran? ran? ran?” he said as rapidly as he blinked. “How?
           faith signifies plighted faith, as much as an iron-cable is iron      where? what idea . . . ?”
           to hold by. Some little twist of the mind? To Vernon, of all              Close was he upon an explosion that would have sullied
           men! Tush! she has been dreaming of a hero of perfection,             his conception of the purity of the younger members of the
           and the comparison is unfavourable to her Willoughby. But,            sex hauntingly.
           my Clara, when I say to you, that bride is bride, and you are             That she, a young lady, maiden, of strictest education,
           mine, mine!”                                                          should, and without his teaching, know that wives ran!—know
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               “Willoughby, you mentioned them,—those separations of             that by running they compelled their husbands to abandon
           two married. You said, if they do not love . . . Oh! say, is it not   pursuit, surrender possession!—and that she should suggest
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           232                                                                                                                               233

           it of herself as a wife!—that she should speak of running!         afresh: “Never to any man will I give my hand.”
               His ideal, the common male Egoist ideal of a waxwork               She replied to Sir Willoughby, “I have said all. I cannot
           sex, would have been shocked to fragments had she spoken           explain what I have said.”
           further to fill in the outlines of these awful interjections.          She had heard a step in the passage. Vernon entered.
               She was tempted: for during the last few minutes the fire          Perceiving them, he stated his mission in apology: “Doc-
           of her situation had enlightened her understanding upon a          tor Middleton left a book in this room. I see it; it’s a Heinsius.”
           subject far from her as the ice-fields of the North a short            “Ha! by the way, a book; books would not be left here if
           while before; and the prospect offered to her courage if she       they were not brought here, with my compliments to Doctor
           would only outstare shame and seem at home in the doings of        Middleton, who may do as he pleases, though, seriously, or-
           wickedness, was his loathing and dreading so vile a young          der is order,” said Sir Willoughby. “Come away to the labora-
           woman. She restrained herself; chiefly, after the first bridling   tory, Clara. It’s a comment on human beings that wherever
           of maidenly timidity, because she could not bear to lower the      they have been there’s a mess, and you admirers of them,” he
           idea of her sex even in his esteem.                                divided a sickly nod between Vernon and the stale breakfast-
               The door was open. She had thoughts of flying out to           table, “must make what you can of it. Come, Clara.”
           breathe in an interval of truce.                                       Clara protested that she was engaged to walk with Miss
               She reflected on her situation hurriedly askance:              Dale.
               “If one must go through this, to be disentangled from an           “Miss Dale is waiting in the hall,” said Vernon.
           engagement, what must it be to poor women seeking to be                “Miss Dale is waiting?” said Clara.
           free of a marriage?”                                                   “Walk with Miss Dale; walk with Miss Dale,” Sir
               Had she spoken it, Sir Willoughby might have learned           Willoughby remarked, pressingly. “I will beg her to wait an-
           that she was not so iniquitously wise of the things of this        other two minutes. You shall find her in the hall when you
           world as her mere sex’s instinct, roused to the intemperate-       come down.”
           ness of a creature struggling with fetters, had made her ap-           He rang the bell and went out.
           pear in her dash to seize a weapon, indicated moreover by              “Take Miss Dale into your confidence; she is quite trust-
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           him.                                                               worthy,” Vernon said to Clara.
               Clara took up the old broken vow of women to vow it                “I have not advanced one step,” she replied.
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           234                                                                                                                             235

               “Recollect that you are in a position of your own choos-          The two gentlemen behind her separated in the passage.
           ing; and if, after thinking over it, you mean to escape, you      They had not spoken.
           must make up your mind to pitched battles, and not be de-             She had read of the reproach upon women, that they di-
           jected if you are beaten in all of them; there is your only       vide the friendships of men. She reproached herself but she
           chance.”                                                          was in action, driven by necessity, between sea and rock. Dread-
               “Not my choosing; do not say choosing, Mr. Whitford. I        ful to think of! she was one of the creatures who are written
           did not choose. I was incapable of really choosing. I con-        about.
           sented.”
               “It’s the same in fact. But be sure of what you wish.”
               “Yes,” she assented, taking it for her just punishment that
           she should be supposed not quite to know her wishes. “Your
           advice has helped me to-day.”
               “Did I advise?”
               “Do you regret advising?”
               “I should certainly regret a word that intruded between
           you and him.”
               “But you will not leave the Hall yet? You will not leave me
           without a friend? If papa and I were to leave to-morrow, I
           foresee endless correspondence. I have to stay at least some
           days, and wear through it, and then, if I have to speak to my
           poor father, you can imagine the effect on him.”
               Sir Willoughby came striding in, to correct the error of
           his going out.
               “Miss Dale awaits you, my dear. You have bonnet, hat?—
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           No? Have you forgotten your appointment to walk with her?”
               “I am ready,” said Clara, departing.
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           236                                                                                                                            237

                                                                            abyss.
                                                                               His logical coolness of expostulation with her when she
                                                                            cast aside the silly mission entrusted to her by Sir Willoughby
                                                                            and wept for herself, was unheroic in proportion to its praise-
                                                                            worthiness. He had left it to her to do everything she wished
                                                                            done, stipulating simply that there should be a pause of four-
                                                                            and-twenty hours for her to consider of it before she pro-
                                                                            ceeded in the attempt to extricate herself. Of consolation there
                                                                            had not been a word. Said he, “I am the last man to give
                                                                            advice in such a case”. Yet she had by no means astonished
                              Chapter 16.                                   him when her confession came out. It came out, she knew not
                                   Clara and Laetitia.                      how. It was led up to by his declining the idea of marriage,
                                                                            and her congratulating him on his exemption from the pros-
               In spite of his honourable caution, Vernon had said things   pect of the yoke, but memory was too dull to revive the one or
           to render Miss Middleton more angrily determined than she        two fiery minutes of broken language when she had been
           had been in the scene with Sir Willoughby. His counting on       guilty of her dire misconduct.
           pitched battles and a defeat for her in all of them, made her       This gentleman was no flatterer, scarcely a friend. He could
           previous feelings appear slack in comparison with the energy     look on her grief without soothing her. Supposing he had
           of combat now animating her. And she could vehemently            soothed her warmly? All her sentiments collected in her bo-
           declare that she had not chosen; she was too young, too igno-    som to dash in reprobation of him at the thought. She never-
           rant to choose. He had wrongly used that word; it sounded        theless condemned him for his excessive coolness; his trans-
           malicious; and to call consenting the same in fact as choosing   parent anxiety not to be compromised by a syllable; his air of
           was wilfully unjust. Mr. Whitford meant well; he was con-        saying, “I guessed as much, but why plead your case to me?”
                                                                            And his recommendation to her to be quite sure she did know
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           scientious, very conscientious. But he was not the hero de-
           scending from heaven bright-sworded to smite a woman’s fet-      what she meant, was a little insulting. She exonerated him
           ters of her limbs and deliver her from the yawning mouth-        from the intention; he treated her as a girl. By what he said of
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           238                                                                                                                              239

           Miss Dale, he proposed that lady for imitation.                    ply breathed her voice.
               “I must be myself or I shall be playing hypocrite to dig           Laetitia tried another neutral theme.
           my own pitfall,” she said to herself, while taking counsel with        “The weather to-day suits our country,” she said.
           Laetitia as to the route for their walk, and admiring a becom-         “England, or Patterne Park? I am so devoted to mountains
           ing curve in her companion’s hat.                                  that I have no enthusiasm for flat land.”
               Sir Willoughby, with many protestations of regret that             “Do you call our country flat, Miss Middleton? We have
           letters of business debarred him from the pleasure of accom-       undulations, hills, and we have sufficient diversity, meadows,
           panying them, remarked upon the path proposed by Miss              rivers, copses, brooks, and good roads, and pretty by-paths.”
           Dale, “In that case you must have a footman.”                          “The prettiness is overwhelming. It is very pretty to see;
               “Then we adopt the other,” said Clara, and they set forth.     but to live with, I think I prefer ugliness. I can imagine learn-
               “Sir Willoughby,” Miss Dale said to her, “is always in alarm   ing to love ugliness. It’s honest. However young you are, you
           about our unprotectedness.”                                        cannot he deceived by it. These parks of rich people are a part
               Clara glanced up at the clouds and closed her parasol. She     of the prettiness. I would rather have fields, commons.”
           replied, “It inspires timidity.”                                       “The parks give us delightful green walks, paths through
               There was that in the accent and character of the answer       beautiful woods.”
           which warned Laetitia to expect the reverse of a quiet chatter         “If there is a right-of-way for the public.”
           with Miss Middleton.                                                   “There should be,” said Miss Dale, wondering; and Clara
               “You are fond of walking?” She chose a peaceful topic.         cried: “I chafe at restraint: hedges and palings everywhere! I
               “Walking or riding; yes, of walking,” said Clara. “The dif-    should have to travel ten years to sit down contented among
           ficulty is to find companions.”                                    these fortifications. Of course I can read of this rich kind of
               “We shall lose Mr. Whitford next week.”                        English country with pleasure in poetry. But it seems to me
               “He goes?”                                                     to require poetry. What would you say of human beings re-
               “He will be a great loss to me, for I do not ride,” Laetitia   quiring it?”
           replied to the off-hand inquiry.                                       “That they are not so companionable but that the haze of
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               “Ah!”                                                          distance improves the view.”
               Miss Middleton did not fan conversation when she sim-              “Then you do know that you are the wisest?”
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               Laetitia raised her dark eyelashes; she sought to under-           liberty.”
           stand. She could only fancy she did; and if she did, it meant              In another and higher tone Laetitia said, “What?” and she
           that Miss Middleton thought her wise in remaining single.              looked round on her companion; she looked in the doubt
               Clara was full of a sombre preconception that her “jeal-           that is open to conviction by a narrow aperture, and slowly
           ousy” had been hinted to Miss Dale.                                    and painfully yields access. Clara saw the vacancy of her ex-
               “You knew Miss Durham?” she said.                                  pression gradually filling with woefulness.
               “Not intimately.”                                                      “I have begged him to release me from my engagement,
               “As well as you know me?”                                          Miss Dale.”
               “Not so well.”                                                         “Sir Willoughby?”
               “But you saw more of her?”                                             “It is incredible to you. He refuses. You see I have no in-
               “She was more reserved with me.”                                   fluence.”
               “Oh! Miss Dale, I would not be reserved with you.”                     “Miss Middleton, it is terrible!”
               The thrill of the voice caused Laetitia to steal a look. Clara’s       “To be dragged to the marriage service against one’s will?
           eyes were bright, and she had the readiness to run to volubil-         Yes.”
           ity of the fever-stricken; otherwise she did not betray excite-            “Oh! Miss Middleton!”
           ment.                                                                      “Do you not think so?”
               “You will never allow any of these noble trees to be felled,           “That cannot be your meaning.”
           Miss Middleton?”                                                           “You do not suspect me of trifling? You know I would
               “The axe is better than decay, do you not think?”                  not. I am as much in earnest as a mouse in a trap.”
               “I think your influence will be great and always used to               “No, you will not misunderstand me! Miss Middleton,
           good purpose.”                                                         such a blow to Sir Willoughby would be shocking, most cruel!
               “My influence, Miss Dale? I have begged a favour this              He is devoted to you.”
           morning and can not obtain the grant.”                                     “He was devoted to Miss Durham.”
               It was lightly said, but Clara’s face was more significant,            “Not so deeply: differently.”
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           and “What?” leaped from Laetitia’s lips.                                   “Was he not very much courted at that time? He is now;
               Before she could excuse herself, Clara had answered: “My           not so much: he is not so young. But my reason for speaking
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           242                                                                                                                                 243

           of Miss Durham was to exclaim at the strangeness of a girl            would have accused her thick intelligence but for a glimmer
           winning her freedom to plunge into wedlock. Is it compre-             it threw on another most obscure communication. She feared
           hensible to you? She flies from one dungeon into another.             it might be, strange though it seemed, jealousy, a shade of
           These are the acts which astonish men at our conduct, and             jealousy affecting Miss Middleton, as had been vaguely inti-
           cause them to ridicule and, I dare say, despise us.”                  mated by Sir Willoughby when they were waiting in the hall.
               “But, Miss Middleton, for Sir Willoughby to grant such a          “A little feminine ailment, a want of comprehension of a per-
           request, if it was made . . .”                                        fect friendship;” those were his words to her: and he sug-
               “It was made, and by me, and will be made again. I throw          gested vaguely that care must be taken in the eulogy of her
           it all on my unworthiness, Miss Dale. So the county will think        friend.
           of me, and quite justly. I would rather defend him than my-               She resolved to be explicit.
           self. He requires a different wife from anything I can be.                “I have not said that I think him beyond criticism, Miss
           That is my discovery; unhappily a late one. The blame is all          Middleton.”
           mine. The world cannot be too hard on me. But I must be                   “Noble?”
           free if I am to be kind in my judgements even of the gentle-              “He has faults. When we have known a person for years
           man I have injured.”                                                  the faults come out, but custom makes light of them; and I
               “So noble a gentleman!” Laetitia sighed.                          suppose we feel flattered by seeing what it would be difficult
               “I will subscribe to any eulogy of him,” said Clara, with a       to be blind to! A very little flatters us! Now, do you not ad-
           penetrating thought as to the possibility of a lady experi-           mire that view? It is my favourite.”
           enced in him like Laetitia taking him for noble. “He has a                Clara gazed over rolling richness of foliage, wood and wa-
           noble air. I say it sincerely, that your appreciation of him proves   ter, and a church-spire, a town and horizon hills. There sung
           his nobility.” Her feeling of opposition to Sir Willoughby            a sky-lark.
           pushed her to this extravagance, gravely perplexing Laetitia.             “Not even the bird that does not fly away!” she said; meaning,
           “And it is,” added Clara, as if to support what she had said, “a      she had no heart for the bird satisfied to rise and descend in
           withering rebuke to me; I know him less, at least have not had        this place.
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           so long an experience of him.”                                            Laetitia travelled to some notion, dim and immense, of
               Laetitia pondered on an obscurity in these words which            Miss Middleton’s fever of distaste. She shrunk from it in a
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           244                                                                                                                                245

           kind of dread lest it might be contagious and rob her of her         alteration in them. My father has very little money. We sub-
           one ever-fresh possession of the homely picturesque; but Clara       sist on what private income he has, and his pension: he was an
           melted her by saying, “For your sake I could love it . . . in        army doctor. I may by-and-by have to live in a town for pu-
           time; or some dear old English scene. Since . . . since this . . .   pils. I could be grateful to any one who would save me from
           this change in me, I find I cannot separate landscape from           that. I should be astonished at his choosing to have me bur-
           associations. Now I learn how youth goes. I have grown years         den his household as well.—Have I now explained the nature
           older in a week.—Miss Dale, if he were to give me my free-           of my pity? It would be the pity of common sympathy, pure
           dom? if he were to cast me off? if he stood alone?”                  lymph of pity, as nearly disembodied as can be. Last year’s
               “I should pity him.”                                             sheddings from the tree do not form an attractive garland.
               “Him—not me! Oh! right! I hoped you would; I knew                Their merit is, that they have not the ambition. I am like
           you would.”                                                          them. Now, Miss Middleton, I cannot make myself more bare
               Laetitia’s attempt to shift with Miss Middleton’s shifti-        to you. I hope you see my sincerity.”
           ness was vain; for now she seemed really listening to the lan-           “I do see it,” Clara said.
           guage of Jealousy:—jealous of the ancient Letty Dale—and                 With the second heaving of her heart, she cried: “See it,
           immediately before the tone was quite void of it.                    and envy you that humility! proud if I could ape it! Oh, how
               “Yes,” she said, “but you make me feel myself in the dark,       proud if I could speak so truthfully true!—You would not
           and when I do I have the habit of throwing myself for guid-          have spoken so to me without some good feeling out of which
           ance upon such light as I have within. You shall know me, if         friends are made. That I am sure of. To be very truthful to a
           you will, as well as I know myself. And do not think me far          person, one must have a liking. So I judge by myself. Do I
           from the point when I say I have a feeble health. I am what          presume too much?”
           the doctors call anaemic; a rather bloodless creature. The blood         Kindness was on Laetitia’s face.
           is life, so I have not much life. Ten years back—eleven, if I            “But now,” said Clara, swimming on the wave in her bo-
           must be precise, I thought of conquering the world with a            som, “I tax you with the silliest suspicion ever entertained by
           pen! The result is that I am glad of a fireside, and not sure of     one of your rank. Lady, you have deemed me capable of the
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           always having one: and that is my achievement. My days are           meanest of our vices!—Hold this hand, Laetitia; my friend,
           monotonous, but if I have a dread, it is that there will be an       will you? Something is going on in me.”
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           246                                                                                                                                    247

               Laetitia took her hand, and saw and felt that something                “I have not alluded to it in any word that I can recollect.”
           was going on.                                                              “He can imagine no other cause for my wish to be re-
               Clara said, “You are a woman.”                                     leased. I have noticed, it is his instinct to reckon on women as
               It was her effort to account for the something.                    constant by their nature. They are the needles, and he the
               She swam for a brilliant instant on tears, and yielded to          magnet. Jealousy of you, Miss Dale! Laetitia, may I speak?”
           the overflow.                                                              “Say everything you please.”
               When they had fallen, she remarked upon her first long                 “I could wish:—Do you know my baptismal name?”
           breath quite coolly: “An encouraging picture of a rebel, is it             “Clara.”
           not?”                                                                      “At last! I could wish . . . that is, if it were your wish. Yes,
               Her companion murmured to soothe her.                              I could wish that. Next to independence, my wish would be
               “It’s little, it’s nothing,” said Clara, pained to keep her lips   that. I risk offending you. Do not let your delicacy take arms
           in line.                                                               against me. I wish him happy in the only way that he can be
               They walked forward, holding hands, deep-hearted to one            made happy. There is my jealousy.”
           another.                                                                   “Was it what you were going to say just now?”
               “I like this country better now,” the shaken girl resumed.             “No.”
           “I could lie down in it and ask only for sleep. I should like to           “I thought not.”
           think of you here. How nobly self-respecting you must be, to               “I was going to say—and I believe the rack would not make
           speak as you did! Our dreams of heroes and heroines are cold           me truthful like you, Laetitia—well, has it ever struck you:
           glitter beside the reality. I have been lately thinking of myself      remember, I do see his merits; I speak to his faithfullest friend,
           as an outcast of my sex, and to have a good woman liking me            and I acknowledge he is attractive, he has manly tastes and
           a little . . . loving? Oh, Laetitia, my friend, I should have          habits; but has it never struck you . . . I have no right to ask; I
           kissed you, and not made this exhibition of myself—and if              know that men must have faults, I do not expect them to be
           you call it hysterics, woe to you! for I bit my tongue to keep it      saints; I am not one; I wish I were.”
           off when I had hardly strength to bring my teeth together—                 “Has it never struck me . . . ?” Laetitia prompted her.
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           if that idea of jealousy had not been in your head. You had it             “That very few women are able to be straightforwardly
           from him.”                                                             sincere in their speech, however much they may desire to be?”
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           248                                                                                                                               249

               “They are differently educated. Great misfortune brings         women on whose devoted constancy they feed; they drink it
           it to them.”                                                        like blood. I am sure I am not taking the merely feminine
               “I am sure your answer is correct. Have you ever known a        view. They punish themselves too by passing over the one
           woman who was entirely an Egoist?”                                  suitable to them, who could really give them what they crave
               “Personally known one? We are not better than men.”             to have, and they go where they . . .” Clara stopped. “I have
               “I do not pretend that we are. I have latterly become an        not your power to express ideas,” she said.
           Egoist, thinking of no one but myself, scheming to make use             “Miss Middleton, you have a dreadful power,” said Laetitia.
           of every soul I meet. But then, women are in the position of            Clara smiled affectionately. “I am not aware of any. Whose
           inferiors. They are hardly out of the nursery when a lasso is       cottage is this?”
           round their necks; and if they have beauty, no wonder they              “My father’s. Will you not come in? into the garden?”
           turn it to a weapon and make as many captives as they can. I            Clara took note of ivied windows and roses in the porch.
           do not wonder! My sense of shame at my natural weakness             She thanked Laetitia and said: “I will call for you in an hour.”
           and the arrogance of men would urge me to make hundreds                 “Are you walking on the road alone?” said Laetitia, in-
           captive, if that is being a coquette. I should not have compas-     credulously, with an eye to Sir Willoughby’s dismay.
           sion for those lofty birds, the hawks. To see them with their           “I put my trust in the high-road,” Clara replied, and turned
           wings clipped would amuse me. Is there any other way of             away, but turned back to Laetitia and offered her face to be
           punishing them?”                                                    kissed.
               “Consider what you lose in punishing them.”                         The “dreadful power” of this young lady had fervently
               “I consider what they gain if we do not.”                       impressed Laetitia, and in kissing her she marvelled at her
               Laetitia supposed she was listening to discursive observa-      gentleness and girlishness.
           tions upon the inequality in the relations of the sexes. A sus-         Clara walked on, unconscious of her possession of power
           picion of a drift to a closer meaning had been lulled, and the      of any kind.
           colour flooded her swiftly when Clara said: “Here is the dif-
           ference I see; I see it; I am certain of it: women who are called
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           coquettes make their conquests not of the best of men; but
           men who are Egoists have good women for their victims;
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           250                                                                                                                            251

                                                                            prevalence. And men are grossly purchasable; good wines have
                                                                            them, good cigars, a goodfellow air: they are never quite worth
                                                                            their salt even then; you can make head against their ill looks.
                                                                            But the looks of women will at one blow work on you the
                                                                            downright difference which is between the cock of lordly
                                                                            plume and the moulting. Happily they may be gained: a clever
                                                                            tongue will gain them, a leg. They are with you to a certainty
                                                                            if Nature is with you; if you are elegant and discreet: if the
                                                                            sun is on you, and they see you shining in it; or if they have
                                                                            seen you well-stationed and handsome in the sun. And once
                              Chapter 17.                                   gained they are your mirrors for life, and far more constant
                                    The porcelain vase.                     than the glass. That tale of their caprice is absurd. Hit their
                                                                            imaginations once, they are your slaves, only demanding com-
               During the term of clara’s walk with Laetitia, Sir           mon courtier service of you. They will deny that you are age-
           Willoughby’s shrunken self-esteem, like a garment hung to        ing, they will cover you from scandal, they will refuse to see
           the fire after exposure to tempestuous weather, recovered some   you ridiculous. Sir Willoughby’s instinct, or skin, or
           of the sleekness of its velvet pile in the society of Mrs.       outfloating feelers, told him of these mysteries of the influ-
           Mountstuart Jenkinson, who represented to him the world          ence of the sex; he had as little need to study them as a lady
           he feared and tried to keep sunny for himself by all the arts    breathed on.
           he could exercise. She expected him to be the gay Sir               He had some need to know them in fact; and with him
           Willoughby, and her look being as good as an incantation         the need of a protection for himself called it forth; he was
           summons, he produced the accustomed sprite, giving her sally     intuitively a conjurer in self-defence, long-sighted, wanting
           for sally. Queens govern the polite. Popularity with men, ser-   no directions to the herb he was to suck at when fighting a
                                                                            serpent. His dulness of vision into the heart of his enemy was
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           viceable as it is for winning favouritism with women, is of
           poor value to a sensitive gentleman, anxious even to prognos-    compensated by the agile sensitiveness obscuring but render-
           tic apprehension on behalf of his pride, his comfort and his     ing him miraculously active, and, without supposing his need
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           252                                                                                                                               253

           immediate, he deemed it politic to fascinate Mrs. Mountstuart       essarily, after a fall, the pitch of their conversation relaxed.
           and anticipate ghastly possibilities in the future by dropping          “Miss Dale is looking well,” he said.
           a hint; not of Clara’s fickleness, you may he sure; of his own,         “Fairly: she ought to marry,” said Mrs. Mountstuart.
           rather; or, more justly, of an altered view of Clara’s character.       He shook his head. “Persuade her.”
           He touched on the rogue in porcelain.                                   She nodded. “Example may have some effect.”
               Set gently laughing by his relishing humour. “I get nearer          He looked extremely abstracted. “Yes, it is time. Where is
           to it,” he said.                                                    the man you could recommend for her complement? She has
               “Remember I’m in love with her,” said Mrs. Mountstuart.         now what was missing before, a ripe intelligence in addition
               “That is our penalty.”                                          to her happy disposition—romantic, you would say. I can’t
               “A pleasant one for you.”                                       think women the worse for that.”
               He assented. “Is the ‘rogue’ to be eliminated?”                     “A dash of it.”
               “Ask when she’s a mother, my dear Sir Willoughby.”                  “She calls it ‘leafage’.”
               “This is how I read you:—”                                          “Very pretty. And have you relented about your horse
               “I shall accept any interpretation that is complimentary.”      Achmet?”
               “Not one will satisfy me of being sufficiently so, and so I         “I don’t sell him under four hundred.”
           leave it to the character to fill out the epigram.”                     “Poor Johnny Busshe! You forget that his wife doles him
               “Do. What hurry is there? And don’t be misled by your           out his money. You’re a hard bargainer, Sir Willoughby.”
           objection to rogue; which would be reasonable if you had not            “I mean the price to be prohibitive.”
           secured her.”                                                           “Very well; and ‘leafage’ is good for hide-and-seek; espe-
               The door of a hollow chamber of horrible reverberation          cially when there is no rogue in ambush. And that’s the worst
           was opened within him by this remark.                               I can say of Laetitia Dale. An exaggerated devotion is the
               He tried to say in jest, that it was not always a passionate    scandal of our sex. They say you’re the hardest man of busi-
           admiration that held the rogue fast; but he muddled it in the       ness in the county too, and I can believe it; for at home and
           thick of his conscious thunder, and Mrs. Mountstuart smiled         abroad your aim is to get the best of everybody. You see I’ve
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           to see him shot from the smooth-flowing dialogue into the           no leafage, I am perfectly matter-of-fact, bald.”
           cataracts by one simple reminder to the lover of his luck. Nec-         “Nevertheless, my dear Mrs. Mountstuart, I can assure you
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           254                                                                                                                              255

           that conversing with you has much the same exhilarating ef-        stances must lend their aid. Sir Willoughby’s instinct even
           fect on me as conversing with Miss Dale.”                          had sat dull and crushed before his conversation with Mrs.
               “But, leafage! leafage! You hard bargainers have no com-       Mountstuart. She lifted him to one of his ideals of himself.
           passion for devoted spinsters.”                                    Among gentlemen he was the English gentleman; with ladies
               “I tell you my sentiments absolutely.”                         his aim was the Gallican courtier of any period from Louis
               “And you have mine moderately expressed.”                      Treize to Louis Quinze. He could doat on those who led him
               She recollected the purpose of her morning’s visit, which      to talk in that character—backed by English solidity, you
           was to engage Dr. Middleton to dine with her, and Sir              understand. Roast beef stood eminent behind the souffle and
           Willoughby conducted her to the library-door. “Insist,” he         champagne. An English squire excelling his fellows at haz-
           said.                                                              ardous leaps in public, he was additionally a polished whisperer,
               Awaiting her reappearance, the refreshment of the talk he      a lively dialoguer, one for witty bouts, with something in him—
           had sustained, not without point, assisted him to distinguish      capacity for a drive and dig or two—beyond mere wit, as they
           in its complete abhorrent orb the offence committed against        soon learned who called up his reserves, and had a bosom for
           him by his bride. And this he did through projecting it more       pinking. So much for his ideal of himself. Now, Clara not
           and more away from him, so that in the outer distance it           only never evoked, never responded to it, she repelled it; there
           involved his personal emotions less, while observation was         was no flourishing of it near her. He considerately overlooked
           enabled to compass its vastness, and, as it were, perceive the     these facts in his ordinary calculations; he was a man of honour
           whole spherical mass of the wretched girl’s guilt impudently       and she was a girl of beauty; but the accidental blooming of
           turning on its axis.                                               his ideal, with Mrs. Mountstuart, on the very heels of Clara’s
               Thus to detach an injury done to us, and plant it in space,    offence, restored him to full command of his art of detach-
           for mathematical measurement of its weight and bulk, is an         ment, and he thrust her out, quite apart from himself, to
           art; it may also be an instinct of self-preservation; otherwise,   contemplate her disgraceful revolutions.
           as when mountains crumble adjacent villages are crushed, men           Deeply read in the Book of Egoism that he was, he knew
           of feeling may at any moment be killed outright by the iniq-       the wisdom of the sentence: An injured pride that strikes not
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           uitous and the callous. But, as an art, it should be known to      out will strike home. What was he to strike with? Ten years
           those who are for practising an art so beneficent, that circum-    younger, Laetitia might have been the instrument. To think
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           256                                                                                                                              257

           of her now was preposterous. Beside Clara she had the hue of       cating touches of the hat spoke of these apologies to his former
           Winter under the springing bough. He tossed her away, vexed        master with dog-like pathos.
           to the very soul by an ostentatious decay that shrank from             Sir Willoughby beckoned to him to approach.
           comparison with the blooming creature he had to scourge in             “So you are here,” he said. “You have luggage.”
           self-defence, by some agency or other.                                 Flitch jumped from the box and read one of the labels
               Mrs. Mountstuart was on the step of her carriage when          aloud: “Lieutenant-Colonel H. De Craye.”
           the silken parasols of the young ladies were descried on a slope       “And the colonel met the ladies? Overtook them?”
           of the park, where the yellow green of May-clothed beeches             Here seemed to come dismal matter for Flitch to relate.
           flowed over the brown ground of last year’s leaves.                    He began upon the abstract origin of it: he had lost his
               “Who’s the cavalier?” she inquired.                            place in Sir Willoughby’s establishment, and was obliged to
               A gentleman escorted them.                                     look about for work where it was to be got, and though he
               “Vernon? No! he’s pegging at Crossjay,” quoth Willoughby.      knew he had no right to be where he was, he hoped to be
               Vernon and Crossjay came out for the boy’s half-hour’s         forgiven because of the mouths he had to feed as a flyman
           run before his dinner. Crossjay spied Miss Middleton and           attached to the railway station, where this gentleman, the colo-
           was off to meet her at a bound. Vernon followed him lei-           nel, hired him, and he believed Sir Willoughby would excuse
           surely.                                                            him for driving a friend, which the colonel was, he recollected
               “The rogue has no cousin, has she?” said Mrs. Mountstuart.     well, and the colonel recollected him, and he said, not notic-
               “It’s a family of one son or one daughter for generations,”    ing how he was rigged: “What! Flitch! back in your old place?
           replied Willoughby.                                                Am I expected?” and he told the colonel his unfortunate situ-
               “And Letty Dale?”                                              ation. “Not back, colonel; no such luck for me” and Colonel
               “Cousin!” he exclaimed, as if wealth had been imputed to       De Craye was a very kind-hearted gentleman, as he always
           Miss Dale; adding: “No male cousin.”                               had been, and asked kindly after his family. And it might be
               A railway station fly drove out of the avenue on the circle    that such poor work as he was doing now he might be de-
           to the hall-entrance. Flitch was driver. He had no right to be     prived of, such is misfortune when it once harpoons a man;
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           there, he was doing wrong, but he was doing it under cover of      you may dive, and you may fly, but it sticks in you, once do a
           an office, to support his wife and young ones, and his depre-      foolish thing. “May I humbly beg of you, if you’ll be so good,
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           Sir Willoughby,” said Flitch, passing to evidence of the sad      Rebdon road, one of Hoppner’s wagons, overloaded as usual,
           mishap. He opened the door of the fly, displaying fragments       was forcing the horses uphill, when Flitch drove down at an
           of broken porcelain.                                              easy pace, and saw himself between Hoppner’s cart come to a
              “But, what, what! what’s the story of this?” cried Sir         stand and a young lady advancing: and just then the carter
           Willoughby.                                                       smacks his whip, the horses pull half mad. The young lady
              “What is it?” said Mrs. Mountstuart, pricking up her ears.     starts behind the cart, and up jumps the colonel, and, to save
              “It was a vaws,” Flitch replied in elegy.                      the young lady, Flitch dashed ahead and did save her, he
              “A porcelain vase!” interpreted Sir Willoughby.                thanked Heaven for it, and more when he came to see who
              “China!” Mrs. Mountstuart faintly shrieked.                    the young lady was.
              One of the pieces was handed to her inspection.                    “She was alone?” said Sir Willoughby in tragic amazement,
              She held it close, she held it distant. She sighed horribly.   staring at Flitch.
              “The man had better have hanged himself,” said she.                “Very well, you saved her, and you upset the fly,”
              Flitch bestirred his misfortune-sodden features and mem-       Mountstuart jogged him on.
           bers for a continuation of the doleful narrative.                     “Bardett, our old head-keeper, was a witness, my lady, had
              “How did this occur?” Sir Willoughby peremptorily asked        to drive half up the bank, and it’s true—over the fly did go;
           him.                                                              and the vaws it shoots out against the twelfth mile-stone, just
              Flitch appealed to his former master for testimony that        as though there was the chance for it! for nobody else was
           he was a good and a careful driver.                               injured, and knocked against anything else, it never would
              Sir Willoughby thundered: “I tell you to tell me how this      have flown all to pieces, so that it took Bardett and me ten
           occurred.”                                                        minutes to collect every one, down to the smallest piece there
              “Not a drop, my lady! not since my supper last night, if       was; and he said, and I can’t help thinking myself, there was a
           there’s any truth in me!” Flitch implored succour of Mrs          Providence in it, for we all come together so as you might say
           Mountstuart.                                                      we was made to do as we did.”
              “Drive straight,” she said, and braced him.                        “So then Horace adopted the prudent course of walking
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              His narrative was then direct.                                 on with the ladies instead of trusting his limbs again to this
              Near Piper’s mill, where the Wicker brook crossed the          capsizing fly,” Sir Willoughby said to Mrs. Mountstuart; and
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           260                                                                                                                             261

           she rejoined: “Lucky that no one was hurt.”
               Both of them eyed the nose of poor Flitch, and simulta-
           neously they delivered a verdict in “Humph!”
               Mrs. Mountstuart handed the wretch a half-crown from
           her purse. Sir Willoughby directed the footman in attendance
           to unload the fly and gather up the fragments of porcelain
           carefully, bidding Flitch be quick in his departing.
               “The colonel’s wedding-present! I shall call to-morrow.”
           Mrs. Mountstuart waved her adieu.
               “Come every day!—Yes, I suppose we may guess the des-
           tination of the vase.” He bowed her off, and she cried:                                 Chapter 18.
               “Well, now, the gift can he shared, if you’re either of you                               Colonel De Craye.
           for a division.” In the crash of the carriage-wheels he heard,
           “At any rate there was a rogue in that porcelain.”                    Clara came along chatting and laughing with Colonel De
               These are the slaps we get from a heedless world.             Craye, young Crossjay’s hand under one of her arms, and her
               As for the vase, it was Horace De Craye’s loss. Wedding-      parasol flashing; a dazzling offender; as if she wished to com-
           present he would have to produce, and decidedly not in chips.     pel the spectator to recognize the dainty rogue in porcelain;
           It had the look of a costly vase, but that was no question for    really insufferably fair: perfect in height and grace of move-
           the moment:—What was meant by Clara being seen walking            ment; exquisitely tressed; red-lipped, the colour striking out
           on the high-road alone?—What snare, traceable ad inferas,         to a distance from her ivory skin; a sight to set the woodland
           had ever induced Willoughby Patterne to make her the re-          dancing, and turn the heads of the town; though beautiful, a
           pository and fortress of his honour!                              jury of art critics might pronounce her not to be. Irregular
                                                                             features are condemned in beauty. Beautiful figure, they could
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                                                                             say. A description of her figure and her walking would have
                                                                             won her any praises: and she wore a dress cunning to embrace
                                                                             the shape and flutter loose about it, in the spirit of a Summer’s
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           262                                                                                                                                  263

           day. Calypso-clad, Dr. Middleton would have called her. See            sense, verbiage, verse; not one of those latterly terrorized by
           the silver birch in a breeze: here it swells, there it scatters, and   the noise made about the fellow into silent contempt; a sen-
           it is puffed to a round and it streams like a pennon, and now          timent that may sleep, and has not to be defended. He loathed
           gives the glimpse and shine of the white stem’s line within,           the fellow, fought the fellow. But he was one with the poet
           now hurries over it, denying that it was visible, with a chatter       upon that prevailing theme of verse, the charms of women.
           along the sweeping folds, while still the white peeps through.         He was, to his ill-luck, intensely susceptible, and where he
           She had the wonderful art of dressing to suit the season and           led men after him to admire, his admiration became a fury.
           the sky. To-day the art was ravishingly companionable with             He could see at a glance that Horace De Craye admired Miss
           her sweet-lighted face: too sweet, too vividly meaningful for          Middleton. Horace was a man of taste, could hardly, could
           pretty, if not of the strict severity for beautiful. Millinery         not, do other than admire; but how curious that in the set-
           would tell us that she wore a fichu of thin white muslin crossed       ting forth of Clara and Miss Dale, to his own contemplation
           in front on a dress of the same light stuff, trimmed with deep         and comparison of them, Sir Willoughby had given but a
           rose. She carried a grey-silk parasol, traced at the borders with      nodding approbation of his bride’s appearance! He had not
           green creepers, and across the arm devoted to Crossjay a length        attached weight to it recently.
           of trailing ivy, and in that hand a bunch of the first long                Her conduct, and foremost, if not chiefly, her having been
           grasses. These hues of red rose and pale green ruffled and             discovered, positively met by his friend Horace, walking on
           pouted in the billowy white of the dress ballooning and                the high-road without companion or attendant, increased a
           valleying softly, like a yacht before the sail bends low; but she      sense of pain so very unusual with him that he had cause to
           walked not like one blown against; resembling rather the day           be indignant. Coming on this condition, his admiration of
           of the South-west driving the clouds, gallantly firm in com-           the girl who wounded him was as bitter a thing as a man
           motion; interfusing colour and varying in her features from            could feel. Resentment, fed from the main springs of his na-
           laugh to smile and look of settled pleasure, like the heavens          ture, turned it to wormwood, and not a whit the less was it
           above the breeze.                                                      admiration when he resolved to chastise her with a formal
               Sir Willoughby, as he frequently had occasion to protest           indication of his disdain. Her present gaiety sounded to him
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           to Clara, was no poet: he was a more than commonly candid              like laughter heard in the shadow of the pulpit.
           English gentleman in his avowed dislike of the poet’s non-                 “You have escaped!” he said to her, while shaking the hand
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           264                                                                                                                               265

           of his friend Horace and cordially welcoming him. “My dear          came here not to go there; and, by the way, fetched a jug with
           fellow! and, by the way, you had a squeak for it, I hear from       me to offer up to the gods of ill-luck; and they accepted the
           Flitch.”                                                            propitiation.”
               “I, Willoughby? not a bit,” said the colonel; “we get into a       “Wasn’t it packed in a box?”
           fly to get, out of it; and Flitch helped me out as well as in,         “No, it was wrapped in paper, to show its elegant form. I
           good fellow; just dusting my coat as he did it. The only bit of     caught sight of it in the shop yesterday and carried it off this
           bad management was that Miss Middleton had to step aside            morning, and presented it to Miss Middleton at noon, with-
           a trifle hurriedly.”                                                out any form at all.”
               “You knew Miss Middleton at once?”                                 Willoughby knew his friend Horace’s mood when the Irish
               “Flitch did me the favour to introduce me. He first pre-        tongue in him threatened to wag.
           cipitated me at Miss Middleton’s feet, and then he intro-              “You see what may happen,” he said to Clara.
           duced me, in old oriental fashion, to my sovereign.”                   “As far as I am in fault I regret it,” she answered.
               Sir Willoughby’s countenance was enough for his friend             “Flitch says the accident occurred through his driving up
           Horace. Quarter-wheeling to Clara, he said: “’Tis the place         the bank to save you from the wheels.”
           I’m to occupy for life, Miss Middleton, though one is not              “Flitch may go and whisper that down the neck of his
           always fortunate to have a bright excuse for taking it at the       empty whisky-flask,” said Horace De Craye. “And then let
           commencement.”                                                      him cork it.”
               Clara said: “Happily you were not hurt, Colonel De Craye.”         “The consequence is that we have a porcelain vase broken.
               “I was in the hands of the Loves. Not the Graces, I’m afraid;   You should not walk on the road alone, Clara. You ought to
           I’ve an image of myself. Dear, no! My dear Willoughby, you          have a companion, always. It is the rule here.”
           never made such a headlong declaration as that. It would have          “I had left Miss Dale at the cottage.”
           looked like a magnificent impulse, if the posture had only             “You ought to have had the dogs.”
           been choicer. And Miss Middleton didn’t laugh. At least I              “Would they have been any protection to the vase?”
           saw nothing but pity.”                                                 Horace De Craye crowed cordially.
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               “You did not write,” said Willoughby.                              “I’m afraid not, Miss Middleton. One must go to the
               “Because it was a toss-up of a run to Ireland or here, and I    witches for protection to vases; and they’re all in the air now,
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           266                                                                                                                                267

           having their own way with us, which accounts for the confu-         pendent gentleman, and comes a cold day we haul on the
           sion in politics and society, and the rise in the price of broom-   metal-button coat again, with a good ha! of satisfaction. You’ll
           sticks, to prove it true, as they tell us, that every nook and      do the popular thing. Miss Middleton joins in the pleading.”
           corner wants a mighty sweeping. Miss Dale looks beaming,”               “No pleading!”
           said De Craye, wishing to divert Willoughby from his anger              “When I’ve vowed upon my eloquence, Willoughby, I’d
           with sense as well as nonsense.                                     bring you to pardon the poor dog?”
               “You have not been visiting Ireland recently?” said Sir             “Not a word of him!”
           Willoughby.                                                             “Just one!”
               “No, nor making acquaintance with an actor in an Irish              Sir Willoughby battled with himself to repress a state of
           part in a drama cast in the Green Island. ’Tis Flitch, my dear      temper that put him to marked disadvantage beside his friend
           Willoughby, has been and stirred the native in me, and we’ll        Horace in high spirits. Ordinarily he enjoyed these fits of
           present him to you for the like good office when we hear after      Irish of him, which were Horace’s fun and play, at times in-
           a number of years that you’ve not wrinkled your forehead            voluntary, and then they indicated a recklessness that might
           once at your liege lady. Take the poor old dog back home, will      embrace mischief. De Craye, as Willoughby had often re-
           you? He’s crazed to be at the Hall. I say, Willoughby, it would     minded him, was properly Norman. The blood of two or three
           be a good bit of work to take him back. Think of it; you’ll do      Irish mothers in his line, however, was enough to dance him,
           the popular thing, I’m sure. I’ve a superstition that Flitch        and if his fine profile spoke of the stiffer race, his eyes and the
           ought to drive you from the church-door. If I were in luck,         quick run of the lip in the cheek, and a number of his quali-
           I’d have him drive me.”                                             ties, were evidence of the maternal legacy.
               “The man’s a drunkard, Horace.”                                     “My word has been said about the man,” Willoughby re-
               “He fuddles his poor nose. ’Tis merely unction to the ex-       plied.
           ile. Sober struggles below. He drinks to rock his heart, be-            “But I’ve wagered on your heart against your word, and
           cause he has one. Now let me intercede for poor Flitch.”            cant afford to lose; and there’s a double reason for revoking
               “Not a word of him. He threw up his place.”                     for you!”
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               “To try his fortune in the world, as the best of us do,             “I don’t see either of them. Here are the ladies.”
           though livery runs after us to tell us there’s no being an inde-        “You’ll think of the poor beast, Willoughby.”
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           268                                                                                                                             269

               “I hope for better occupation.”                               and after the first instant clouded as by wearifulness of
               “If he drives a wheelbarrow at the Hall he’ll be happier      sameness; his was brilliant, astonished, speculative, and ad-
           than on board a chariot at large. He’s broken-hearted.”           miring, pitiful: a look that poised over a revelation, called up
               “He’s too much in the way of breakages, my dear Horace.”      the hosts of wonder to question strange fact.
               “Oh, the vase! the bit of porcelain!” sung De Craye. “Well,      It had passed unseen by Sir Willoughby. The observer
           we’ll talk him over by and by.”                                   was the one who could also supply the key of the secret. Miss
               “If it pleases you; but my rules are never amended.”          Dale had found Colonel De Craye in company with Miss
               “Inalterable, are they?—like those of an ancient people,      Middleton at her gateway. They were laughing and talking
           who might as well have worn a jacket of lead for the comfort      together like friends of old standing, De Craye as Irish as he
           they had of their boast. The beauty of laws for human crea-       could be: and the Irish tongue and gentlemanly manner are
           tures is their adaptability to new stitchings.”                   an irresistible challenge to the opening steps of familiarity
               Colonel De Craye walked at the heels of his leader to make    when accident has broken the ice. Flitch was their theme;
           his bow to the ladies Eleanor and Isabel.                         and: “Oh, but if we go tip to Willoughby hand in hand; and
               Sir Willoughby had guessed the person who inspired his        bob a courtesy to him and beg his pardon for Mister Flitch,
           friend Horace to plead so pertinaciously and inopportunely        won’t he melt to such a pair of suppliants? of course he will!”
           for the man Flitch: and it had not improved his temper or         Miss Middleton said he would not. Colonel De Craye wa-
           the pose of his rejoinders; he had winced under the contrast      gered he would; he knew Willoughby best. Miss Middleton
           of his friend Horace’s easy, laughing, sparkling, musical air     looked simply grave; a way of asserting the contrary opinion
           and manner with his own stiffness; and he had seen Clara’s        that tells of rueful experience. “We’ll see,” said the colonel.
           face, too, scanning the contrast—he was fatally driven to ex-     They chatted like a couple unexpectedly discovering in one
           aggerate his discontentment, which did not restore him to         another a common dialect among strangers. Can there be an
           serenity. He would have learned more from what his abrupt         end to it when those two meet? They prattle, they fill the
           swing round of the shoulder precluded his beholding. There        minutes, as though they were violently to be torn asunder at a
           was an interchange between Colonel De Craye and Miss              coming signal, and must have it out while they can; it is a
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           Middleton; spontaneous on both sides. His was a look that         meeting of mountain brooks; not a colloquy, but a chasing,
           said: “You were right”; hers: “I knew it”. Her look was calmer,   impossible to say which flies, which follows, or what the topic,
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           270                                                                                                                             271

           so interlinguistic are they and rapidly counterchanging. After        “That she will have to do. She wished to spare him.”
           their conversation of an hour before, Laetitia watched Miss           “He cannot be spared if she is to break the engagement.”
           Middleton in surprise at her lightness of mind. Clara bathed          She thought of sparing him the annoyance. “Now there’s
           in mirth. A boy in a summer stream shows not heartier re-         to be a tussle, he must share in it.”
           freshment of his whole being. Laetitia could now understand           “Or she thought he might not side with her?”
           Vernon’s idea of her wit. And it seemed that she also had Irish       “She has not a single instinct of cunning. You judge her
           blood. Speaking of Ireland, Miss Middleton said she had cous-     harshly.”
           ins there, her only relatives.                                        “She moved me on the walk out. Coming home I felt dif-
               “The laugh told me that,” said Colonel De Craye.              ferently.”
               Laetitia and Vernon paced up and down the lawn. Colo-             Vernon glanced at Colonel De Craye.
           nel De Craye was talking with English sedateness to the la-           “She wants good guidance,” continued Laetitia.
           dies Eleanor and Isabel. Clara and young Crossjay strayed.            “She has not an idea of treachery.”
               “If I might advise, I would say, do not leave the Hall im-        “You think so? It may be true. But she seems one born
           mediately, not yet,” Laetitia said to Vernon.                     devoid of patience, easily made reckless. There is a wildness . .
               “You know, then?”                                             . I judge by her way of speaking; that at least appeared sin-
               “I cannot understand why it was that I was taken into her     cere. She does not practise concealment. He will naturally
           confidence.”                                                      find it almost incredible. The change in her, so sudden, so
               “I counselled it.”                                            wayward, is unintelligible to me. To me it is the conduct of a
               “But it was done without an object that I can see.”           creature untamed. He may hold her to her word and be justi-
               “The speaking did her good.”                                  fied.”
               “But how capricious! how changeful!”                              “Let him look out if he does!”
               “Better now than later.”                                          “Is not that harsher than anything I have said of her?”
               “Surely she has only to ask to be released?—to ask ear-           “I’m not appointed to praise her. I fancy I read the case;
           nestly: if it is her wish.”                                       and it’s a case of opposition of temperaments. We never can
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               “You are mistaken.”                                           tell the person quite suited to us; it strikes us in a flash.”
               “Why does she not make a confidant of her father?”                “That they are not suited to us? Oh, no; that comes by
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           272                                                                                                                               273

           degrees.”                                                           for his crammer, if it is to be got. If not, I may get a man to
               “Yes, but the accumulation of evidence, or sentience, if        trust me. I mean to drag the boy away. Willoughby has been
           you like, is combustible; we don’t command the spark; it may        at him with the tune of gentleman, and has laid hold of him
           be late in falling. And you argue in her favour. Consider her       by one ear. When I say ‘her obedience,’ she is not in a situa-
           as a generous and impulsive girl, outwearied at last.”              tion, nor in a condition to be led blindly by anybody. She
               “By what?”                                                      must rely on herself, do everything herself. It’s a knot that
               “By anything; by his loftiness, if you like. He flies too       won’t bear touching by any hand save hers.”
           high for her, we will say.”                                             “I fear . . .” said Laetitia.
               “Sir Willoughby an eagle?”                                          “Have no such fear.”
               “She may be tired of his eyrie.”                                    “If it should come to his positively refusing.”
               The sound of the word in Vernon’s mouth smote on a                  “He faces the consequences.”
           consciousness she had of his full grasp of Sir Willoughby and           “You do not think of her.”
           her own timid knowledge, though he was not a man who                    Vernon looked at his companion.
           played on words.
               If he had eased his heart in stressing the first syllable, it
           was only temporary relief. He was heavy-browed enough.
               “But I cannot conceive what she expects me to do by con-
           fiding her sense of her position to me,” said Laetitia.
               “We none of us know what will be done. We hang on
           Willoughby, who hangs on whatever it is that supports him:
           and there we are in a swarm.”
               “You see the wisdom of staying, Mr. Whitford.”
               “It must be over in a day or two. Yes, I stay.”
               “She inclines to obey you.”
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               “I should be sorry to stake my authority on her obedience.
           We must decide something about Crossjay, and get the money
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           274                                                                                                                               275

                                                                               and when I come I will give you a kiss.” Crossjay promised.
                                                                               She left him and forgot him.
                                                                                   Seeing by her watch fifteen minutes to the ringing of the
                                                                               bell, a sudden resolve that she would speak to her father with-
                                                                               out another minute’s delay had prompted her like a supersti-
                                                                               tious impulse to abandon her aimless course and be direct.
                                                                               She knew what was good for her; she knew it now more clearly
                                                                               than in the morning. To be taken away instantly! was her cry.
                                                                               There could be no further doubt. Had there been any be-
                                                                               fore? But she would not in the morning have suspected her-
                               Chapter 19.                                     self of a capacity for evil, and of a pressing need to be saved
                        Colonel De Craye and Clara Middleton.                  from herself. She was not pure of nature: it may be that we
                                                                               breed saintly souls which are: she was pure of will: fire rather
               MISS MIDDLETON finished her stroll with Crossjay                than ice. And in beginning to see the elements she was made
           by winding her trailer of ivy in a wreath round his hat and         of she did not shuffle them to a heap with her sweet looks to
           sticking her bunch of grasses in the wreath. She then com-          front her. She put to her account some strength, much weak-
           manded him to sit on the ground beside a big rhododendron,          ness; she almost dared to gaze unblinking at a perilous evil
           there to await her return. Crossjay had informed her of a de-       tendency. The glimpse of it drove her to her father.
           sign he entertained to be off with a horde of boys nesting in           “He must take me away at once; to-morrow!”
           high trees, and marking spots where wasps and hornets were              She wished to spare her father. So unsparing of herself was
           to be attacked in Autumn: she thought it a dangerous busi-          she, that, in her hesitation to speak to him of her change of
           ness, and as the boy’s dinner-bell had very little restraint over   feeling for Sir Willoughby, she would not suffer it to be at-
           him when he was in the flush of a scheme of this description,       tributed in her own mind to a daughter’s anxious consider-
                                                                               ation about her father’s loneliness; an idea she had indulged
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           she wished to make tolerably sure of him through the charm
           she not unreadily believed she could fling on lads of his age.      formerly. Acknowledging that it was imperative she should
           “Promise me you will not move from here until I come back,          speak, she understood that she had refrained, even to the in-
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           276                                                                                                                               277

           flicting upon herself of such humiliation as to run dilating on         “I think I am not very well.”
           her woes to others, because of the silliest of human desires to         “We’ll call in that man we met at dinner here: Corney: a
           preserve her reputation for consistency. She had heard women        capital doctor; an old-fashioned anecdotal doctor. How is it
           abused for shallowness and flightiness: she had heard her fa-       you are not well, my love? You look well. I cannot conceive
           ther denounce them as veering weather-vanes, and his oft-           your not being well.”
           repeated quid femina possit: for her sex’s sake, and also to            “It is only that I want change of air, papa.”
           appear an exception to her sex, this reasoning creature desired         “There we are—a change! semper eadem! Women will be
           to be thought consistent.                                           wanting a change of air in Paradise; a change of angels too, I
               Just on the instant of her addressing him, saying: “Father,”    might surmise. A change from quarters like these to a French
           a note of seriousness in his ear, it struck her that the occasion   hotel would be a descent!—’this the seat, this mournful gloom
           for saying all had not yet arrived, and she quickly interposed:     for that celestial light.’ I am perfectly at home in the library
           “Papa”; and helped him to look lighter. The petition to be          here. That excellent fellow Whitford and I have real days:
           taken away was uttered.                                             and I like him for showing fight to his elder and better.”
               “To London?” said Dr. Middleton. “I don’t know who’ll               “He is going to leave.”
           take us in.”                                                            “I know nothing of it, and I shall append no credit to the
               “To France, papa?”                                              tale until I do know. He is headstrong, but he answers to a
               “That means hotel-life.”                                        rap.”
               “Only for two or three weeks.”                                      Clara’s bosom heaved. The speechless insurrection threat-
               “Weeks! I am under an engagement to dine with Mrs               ened her eyes.
           Mountstuart Jenkinson five days hence: that is, on Thurs-               A South-west shower lashed the window-panes and sug-
           day.”                                                               gested to Dr. Middleton shuddering visions of the Channel
               “Could we not find an excuse?”                                  passage on board a steamer.
               “Break an engagement? No, my dear, not even to escape               “Corney shall see you: he is a sparkling draught in person;
           drinking a widow’s wine.”                                           probably illiterate, if I may judge from one interruption of
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               “Does a word bind us?”                                          my discourse when he sat opposite me, but lettered enough
               “Why, what else should?”                                        to respect Learning and write out his prescription: I do not
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           278                                                                                                                              279

           ask more of men or of physicians.” Dr. Middleton said this         need not sing to me like a gnat to propound that question,
           rising, glancing at the clock and at the back of his hands.        my dear.”
           “‘Quod autem secundum litteras difficillimum esse artificium?’         “Then, father, tell Willoughby to-day we have to leave
           But what after letters is the more difficult practice? ‘Ego puto   tomorrow. You shall return in time for Mrs. Mountstuart’s
           medicum.’ The medicus next to the scholar: though I have           dinner. Friends will take us in, the Darletons, the Erpinghams.
           not to my recollection required him next me, nor ever ex-          We can go to Oxford, where you are sure of welcome. A little
           pected child of mine to be crying for that milk. Daughter she      will recover me. Do not mention doctors. But you see I am
           is—of the unexplained sex: we will send a messenger for            nervous. I am quite ashamed of it; I am well enough to laugh
           Corney. Change, my dear, you will speedily have, to satisfy        at it, only I cannot overcome it; and I feel that a day or two
           the most craving of women, if Willoughby, as I suppose, is in      will restore me. Say you will. Say it in First-Lesson-Book
           the neoteric fashion of spending a honeymoon on a railway:         language; anything above a primer splits my foolish head to-
           apt image, exposition and perpetuation of the state of mania       day.”
           conducting to the institution! In my time we lay by to brood           Dr Middleton shrugged, spreading out his arms.
           on happiness; we had no thought of chasing it over a conti-            “The office of ambassador from you to Willoughby, Clara?
           nent, mistaking hurly-burly clothed in dust for the divinity       You decree me to the part of ball between two bats. The Play
           we sought. A smaller generation sacrifices to excitement. Dust     being assured, the prologue is a bladder of wind. I seem to be
           and hurly-burly must perforce be the issue. And that is your       instructed in one of the mysteries of erotic esotery, yet on my
           modern world. Now, my dear, let us go and wash our hands.          word I am no wiser. If Willoughby is to hear anything from
           Midday-bells expect immediate attention. They know of no           you, he will hear it from your lips.”
           anteroom of assembly.”                                                 “Yes, father, yes. We have differences. I am not fit for con-
               Clara stood gathered up, despairing at opportunity lost.       tests at present; my head is giddy. I wish to avoid an illness.
           He had noticed her contracted shape and her eyes, and had          He and I . . . I accuse myself.”
           talked magisterially to smother and overbear the something             “There is the bell!” ejaculated Dr. Middleton. “I’ll debate
           disagreeable prefigured in her appearance.                         on it with Willoughby.”
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               “You do not despise your girl, father?”                            “This afternoon?”
               “I do not; I could not; I love her; I love my girl. But you        “Somewhen, before the dinner-bell. I cannot tie myself to
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           the minute-hand of the clock, my dear child. And let me            circling hills, and the hearts of poor cottagers too—sympathy
           direct you, for the next occasion when you shall bring the         with whom assured her of goodness—were familiar, homely
           vowels I and A, in verbally detached letters, into collision,      to the dweller in the place, morning and night. And she had
           that you do not fill the hiatus with so pronounced a Y. It is      the love of wild flowers, the watchful happiness in the sea-
           the vulgarization of our tongue of which I accuse you. I do        sons; poets thrilled her, books absorbed. She dwelt strongly
           not like my girl to be guilty of it.”                              on that sincerity of feeling; it gave her root in our earth; she
               He smiled to moderate the severity of the correction, and      needed it as she pressed a hand on her eyeballs, conscious of
           kissed her forehead.                                               acting the invalid, though the reasons she had for languishing
               She declared her inability to sit and eat; she went to her     under headache were so convincing that her brain refused to
           room, after begging him very earnestly to send her the assur-      disbelieve in it and went some way to produce positive throbs.
           ance that he had spoken. She had not shed a tear, and she          Otherwise she had no excuse for shutting herself in her room.
           rejoiced in her self-control; it whispered to her of true cour-    Vernon Whitford would be sceptical. Headache or none,
           age when she had given herself such evidence of the reverse.       Colonel De Craye must be thinking strangely of her; she had
               Shower and sunshine alternated through the half-hours          not shown him any sign of illness. His laughter and his talk
           of the afternoon, like a procession of dark and fair holding       sung about her and dispersed the fiction; he was the very sea-
           hands and passing. The shadow came, and she was chill; the         wind for bracing unstrung nerves. Her ideas reverted to Sir
           light yellow in moisture, and she buried her face not to be        Willoughby, and at once they had no more cohesion than the
           caught up by cheerfulness. Believing that her head ached, she      foam on a torrent-water.
           afflicted herself with all the heavy symptoms, and oppressed           But soon she was undergoing a variation of sentiment. Her
           her mind so thoroughly that its occupation was to speculate        maid Barclay brought her this pencilled line from her father:
           on Laetitia Dale’s modest enthusiasm for rural pleasures, for          “Factum est; laetus est; amantium irae, etc.”
           this place especially, with its rich foliage and peeps of scenic       That it was done, that Willoughby had put on an air of
           peace. The prospect of an escape from it inspired thoughts of      glad acquiescence, and that her father assumed the existence
           a loveable round of life where the sun was not a naked ball of     of a lovers’ quarrel, was wonderful to her at first sight, simple
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           fire, but a friend clothed in woodland; where park and meadow      the succeeding minute. Willoughby indeed must be tired of
           swept to well-known features East and West; and distantly          her, glad of her going. He would know that it was not to
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           return. She was grateful to him for perhaps hinting at the              Now you have only to be reminded that it is the habit of
           amantium irae, though she rejected the folly of the verse. And      the sportive gentleman of easy life, bewildered as he would
           she gazed over dear homely country through her windows              otherwise be by the tricks, twists, and windings of the hunted
           now. Happy the lady of the place, if happy she can be in her        sex, to parcel out fair women into classes; and some are flyers
           choice! Clara Middleton envied her the double-blossom wild          and some are runners; these birds are wild on the wing, those
           cherry-tree, nothing else. One sprig of it, if it had not faded     exposed their bosoms to the shot. For him there is no indi-
           and gone to dust-colour like crusty Alpine snow in the lower        vidual woman. He grants her a characteristic only to enroll
           hollows, and then she could depart, bearing away a memory           her in a class. He is our immortal dunce at learning to distin-
           of the best here! Her fiction of the headache pained her no         guish her as a personal variety, of a separate growth.
           longer. She changed her muslin dress for silk; she was con-             Colonel De Craye’s cock of the eye at the door said that he
           tented with the first bonnet Barclay presented. Amicable to-        had seen a rageing coquette go behind it. He had his excuse
           ward every one in the house, Willoughby included, she threw         for forming the judgement. She had spoken strangely of the
           up her window, breathed, blessed mankind; and she thought:          fall of his wedding-present, strangely of Willoughby; or there
           “If Willoughby would open his heart to nature, he would be          was a sound of strangeness in an allusion to her appointed
           relieved of his wretched opinion of the world.” Nature was          husband: and she had treated Willoughby strangely when
           then sparkling refreshed in the last drops of a sweeping rain-      they met. Above all, her word about Flitch was curious. And
           curtain, favourably disposed for a background to her joyful         then that look of hers! And subsequently she transferred her
           optimism. A little nibble of hunger within, real hunger, un-        polite attentions to Willoughby’s friend. After a charming
           known to her of late, added to this healthy view, without pre-      colloquy, the sweetest give and take rattle he had ever enjoyed
           cipitating her to appease it; she was more inclined to foster it,   with a girl, she developed headache to avoid him; and next
           for the sake of the sinewy activity of mind and limb it gave        she developed blindness, for the same purpose.
           her; and in the style of young ladies very light of heart, she          He was feeling hurt, but considered it preferable to feel
           went downstairs like a cascade, and like the meteor observed        challenged.
           in its vanishing trace she alighted close to Colonel De Craye           Miss Middleton came out of another door. She had seen
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           and entered one of the rooms off the hall.                          him when she had passed him and when it was too late to
               He cocked an eye at the half-shut door.                         convey her recognition; and now she addressed him with an
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           air of having bowed as she went by.                                 smoke-wreath. “Are you for Irish scenery?”
               “No one?” she said. “Am I alone in the house?”                      “Irish, English, Scottish.”
               “There is a figure naught,” said he, “but it’s as good as           “All’s one so long as it’s beautiful: yes, you speak for me.
           annihilated, and no figure at all, if you put yourself on the       Cosmopolitanism of races is a different affair. I beg leave to
           wrong side of it, and wish to be alone in the house.”               doubt the true union of some; Irish and Saxon, for example,
               “Where is Willoughby?”                                          let Cupid be master of the ceremonies and the dwelling-place
               “Away on business.”                                             of the happy couple at the mouth of a Cornucopia. Yet I have
               “Riding?”                                                       seen a flower of Erin worn by a Saxon gentleman proudly;
               “Achmet is the horse, and pray don’t let him be sold, Miss      and the Hibernian courting a Rowena! So we’ll undo what I
           Middleton. I am deputed to attend on you.”                          said, and consider it cancelled.”
               “I should like a stroll.”                                           “Are you of the rebel party, Colonel De Craye?”
               “Are you perfectly restored?”                                       “I am Protestant and Conservative, Miss Middleton.”
               “Perfectly.”                                                        “I have not a head for politics.”
               “Strong?”                                                           “The political heads I have seen would tempt me to that
               “I was never better.”                                           opinion.”
               “It was the answer of the ghost of the wicked old man’s             “Did Willoughby say when he would be back?”
           wife when she came to persuade him he had one chance re-                “He named no particular time. Doctor Middleton and Mr.
           maining. Then, says he, I’ll believe in heaven if ye’ll stop that   Whitford are in the library upon a battle of the books.”
           bottle, and hurls it; and the bottle broke and he committed             “Happy battle!”
           suicide, not without suspicion of her laying a trap for him.            “You are accustomed to scholars. They are rather intoler-
           These showers curling away and leaving sweet scents are di-         ant of us poor fellows.”
           vine, Miss Middleton. I have the privilege of the Christian             “Of ignorance perhaps; not of persons.”
           name on the nuptial-day. This park of Willoughby’s is one of            “Your father educated you himself, I presume?”
           the best things in England. There’s a glimpse over the lake             “He gave me as much Latin as I could take. The fault is
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           that smokes of a corner of Killarney; tempts the eye to dream,      mine that it is little.”
           I mean.” De Craye wound his finger spirally upward, like a              “Greek?”
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               “A little Greek.”                                                 “Patrick himself. And I lose my letter, and I stand on the
               “Ah! And you carry it like a feather.”                        Prado of Madrid with the last portrait of Britannia in the
               “Because it is so light.”                                     palm of my hand, and crying in the purest brogue of my
               “Miss Middleton, I could sit down to be instructed, old as    native land: ‘It’s all through dropping a letter I’m here in
           I am. When women beat us, I verily believe we are the most        Iberia instead of Hibernia, worse luck to the spelling!’”
           beaten dogs in existence. You like the theatre?”                      “But Patrick will be sure to aspirate the initial letter of
               “Ours?”                                                       Hibernia.”
               “Acting, then.”                                                   “That is clever criticism, upon my word, Miss Middleton!
               “Good acting, of course.”                                     So he would. And there we have two letters dropped. But
               “May I venture to say you would act admirably?”               he’d do it in a groan, so that it wouldn’t count for more than
               “The venture is bold, for I have never tried.”                a ghost of one; and everything goes on the stage, since it’s
               “Let me see; there is Miss Dale and Mr. Whitford; you         only the laugh we want on the brink of the action. Besides
           and I; sufficient for a two-act piece. THE IRISHMAN IN            you are to suppose the performance before a London audi-
           SPAIN would do.” He bent to touch the grass as she stepped        ence, who have a native opposite to the aspirate and wouldn’t
           on it. “The lawn is wet.”                                         bear to hear him spoil a joke, as if he were a lord or a con-
               She signified that she had no dread of wet, and said: “En-    stable. It’s an instinct of the English democracy. So with my
           glish women afraid of the weather might as well be shut up.”      bit of coin turning over and over in an undecided way, whether
               De Craye proceeded: “Patrick O’Neill passes over from         it shall commit suicide to supply me a supper, I behold a pair
           Hibernia to Iberia, a disinherited son of a father in the claws   of Spanish eyes like violet lightning in the black heavens of
           of the lawyers, with a letter of introduction to Don Beltran      that favoured clime. Won’t you have violet?”
           d’Arragon, a Grandee of the First Class, who has a daughter           “Violet forbids my impersonation.”
           Dona Seraphina (Miss Middleton), the proudest beauty of               “But the lustre on black is dark violet blue.”
           her day, in the custody of a duenna (Miss Dale), and plighted         “You remind me that I have no pretension to black.”
           to Don Fernan, of the Guzman family (Mr. Whitford). There             Colonel De Craye permitted himself to take a flitting gaze
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           you have our dramatis personae.”                                  at Miss Middleton’s eyes. “Chestnut,” he said. “Well, and
               “You are Patrick?”                                            Spain is the land of chestnuts.”
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           288                                                                                                                              289

               “Then it follows that I am a daughter of Spain.”               he must have been wet through two or three times:—because
               “Clearly.”                                                     I did not come to him!”
               “Logically?”                                                      “Quite right. And the lava might overflow him and take
               “By positive deduction.”                                       the mould of him, like the sentinel at Pompeii, if he’s of the
               “And do I behold Patrick?”                                     true stuff.”
               “As one looks upon a beast of burden.”                            “He may have caught cold, he may have a fever.”
               “Oh!”                                                             “He was under your orders to stay.”
               Miss Middleton’s exclamation was louder than the matter           “I know, and I cannot forgive myself. Run in, Crossjay,
           of the dialogue seemed to require. She caught her hands up.        and change your clothes. Oh, run, run to Mrs. Montague,
               In the line of the outer extremity of the rhododendron,        and get her to give you a warm bath, and tell her from me to
           screened from the house windows, young Crossjay lay at his         prepare some dinner for you. And change every garment you
           length, with his head resting on a doubled arm, and his ivy-       have. This is unpardonable of me. I said—’not for politics!’—
           wreathed hat on his cheek, just where she had left him, com-       I begin to think I have not a head for anything. But could it
           manding him to stay. Half-way toward him up the lawn, she          be imagined that Crossjay would not move for the dinner-
           saw the poor boy, and the spur of that pitiful sight set her       bell! through all that rain! I forgot you, Crossjay. I am so
           gliding swiftly. Colonel De Craye followed, pulling an end of      sorry; so sorry! You shall make me pay any forfeit you like.
           his moustache.                                                     Remember, I am deep, deep in your debt. And now let me see
               Crossjay jumped to his feet.                                   you run fast. You shall come in to dessert this evening.”
               “My dear, dear Crossjay!” she addressed him and reproached        Crossjay did not run. He touched her hand.
           him. “And how hungry you must be! And you must be                     “You said something?”
           drenched! This is really too had.”                                    “What did I say, Crossjay?”
               “You told me to wait here,” said Crossjay, in shy self-de-        “You promised.”
           fence.                                                                “What did I promise?”
               “I did, and you should not have done it, foolish boy! I told      “Something.”
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           him to wait for me here before luncheon, Colonel De Craye,            “Name it, my dear boy.”
           and the foolish, foolish boy!—he has had nothing to eat, and          He mumbled, “. . . kiss me.”
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               Clara plumped down on him, enveloped him and kissed               “For longer.”
           him.                                                                  “Two?”
               The affectionately remorseful impulse was too quick for a         “It will be longer.”
           conventional note of admonition to arrest her from paying             “A week? I shall not see you again?”
           that portion of her debt. When she had sped him off to Mrs            “I fear not.”
           Montague, she was in a blush.                                         Colonel De Craye controlled his astonishment; he smoth-
               “Dear, dear Crossjay!” she said, sighing.                     ered a sensation of veritable pain, and amiably said: “I feel a
               “Yes, he’s a good lad,” remarked the colonel. “The fellow     blow, but I am sure you would not willingly strike. We are all
           may well be a faithful soldier and stick to his post, if he re-   involved in the regrets.”
           ceives promise of such a solde. He is a great favourite with          Miss Middleton spoke of having to see Mrs. Montague,
           you.”                                                             the housekeeper, with reference to the bath for Crossjay, and
               “He is. You will do him a service by persuading Willoughby    stepped off the grass. He bowed, watched her a moment, and
           to send him to one of those men who get boys through their        for parallel reasons, running close enough to hit one mark, he
           naval examination. And, Colonel De Craye, will you be kind        commiserated his friend Willoughby. The winning or the los-
           enough to ask at the dinner-table that Crossjay may come in       ing of that young lady struck him as equally lamentable for
           to dessert?”                                                      Willoughby.
               “Certainly,” said he, wondering.
               “And will you look after him while you are here? See that
           no one spoils him. If you could get him away before you
           leave, it would he much to his advantage. He is born for the
           navy and should be preparing to enter it now.”
               “Certainly, certainly,” said De Craye, wondering more.
               “I thank you in advance.”
               “Shall I not be usurping . . .”
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               “No, we leave to-morrow.”
               “For a day?”
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           292                                                                                                                              293

                                                                              weather sunset sky above the pecking sparrow, is he that ever
                                                                              in the recurrent evening of his day sees the best of it ahead
                                                                              and soon to come. He has the rich reward of a youth and
                                                                              manhood of virtuous living. Dr. Middleton misdoubted the
                                                                              future as well as the past of the man who did not, in becom-
                                                                              ing gravity, exult to dine. That man he deemed unfit for this
                                                                              world and the next.
                                                                                  An example of the good fruit of temperance, he had a
                                                                              comfortable pride in his digestion, and his political senti-
                                                                              ments were attuned by his veneration of the Powers reward-
                               Chapter 20.                                    ing virtue. We must have a stable world where this is to be
                                 An aged and a great wine.                    done.
                                                                                  The Rev. Doctor was a fine old picture; a specimen of art
              THE leisurely promenade up and down the lawn with               peculiarly English; combining in himself piety and epicurism,
           ladies and deferential gentlemen, in anticipation of the din-      learning and gentlemanliness, with good room for each and a
           ner-bell, was Dr. Middleton’s evening pleasure. He walked as       seat at one another’s table: for the rest, a strong man, an ath-
           one who had formerly danced (in Apollo’s time and the young        lete in his youth, a keen reader of facts and no reader of per-
           god Cupid’s), elastic on the muscles of the calf and foot, bear-   sons, genial, a giant at a task, a steady worker besides, but
           ing his broad iron-grey head in grand elevation. The hard          easily discomposed. He loved his daughter and he feared her.
           labour of the day approved the cooling exercise and the crown-     However much he liked her character, the dread of her sex
           ing refreshments of French cookery and wines of known vin-         and age was constantly present to warn him that he was not
           tages. He was happy at that hour in dispensing wisdom or           tied to perfect sanity while the damsel Clara remained un-
           nugae to his hearers, like the Western sun whose habit it is,      married. Her mother had been an amiable woman, of the po-
                                                                              etical temperament nevertheless, too enthusiastic, imagina-
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           when he is fairly treated, to break out in quiet splendours,
           which by no means exhaust his treasury. Blessed indeed above       tive, impulsive, for the repose of a sober scholar; an admirable
           his fellows, by the height of the bow-winged bird in a fair        woman, still, as you see, a woman, a fire-work. The girl re-
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           294                                                                                                                               295

           sembled her. Why should she wish to run away from Patterne          Shall I offer myself as guide to you? My cellars are worth a
           Hall for a single hour? Simply because she was of the sex           visit.”
           born mutable and explosive. A husband was her proper cus-               “Cellars are not catacombs. They are, if rightly constructed,
           todian, justly relieving a father. With demagogues abroad and       rightly considered, cloisters, where the bottle meditates on
           daughters at home, philosophy is needed for us to keep erect.       joys to bestow, not on dust misused! Have you anything
           Let the girl be Cicero’s Tullia: well, she dies! The choicest of    great?”
           them will furnish us examples of a strange perversity.                  “A wine aged ninety.”
               Miss Dale was beside Dr. Middleton. Clara came to them              “Is it associated with your pedigree that you pronounce
           and took the other side.                                            the age with such assurance?”
               “I was telling Miss Dale that the signal for your subjec-           “My grandfather inherited it.”
           tion is my enfranchisement,” he said to her, sighing and smil-          “Your grandfather, Sir Willoughby, had meritorious off-
           ing. “We know the date. The date of an event to come certi-         spring, not to speak of generous progenitors. What would
           fies to it as a fact to be counted on.”                             have happened had it fallen into the female line! I shall be
               “Are you anxious to lose me?” Clara faltered.                   glad to accompany you. Port? Hermitage?”
               “My dear, you have planted me on a field where I am to              “Port.”
           expect the trumpet, and when it blows I shall be quit of my             “Ah! We are in England!”
           nerves, no more.”                                                       “There will just be time,” said Sir Willoughby, inducing
               Clara found nothing to seize on for a reply in these words.     Dr. Middleton to step out.
           She thought upon the silence of Laetitia.                               A chirrup was in the reverend doctor’s tone: “Hocks, too,
               Sir Willoughby advanced, appearing in a cordial mood.           have compassed age. I have tasted senior Hocks. Their flavours
               “I need not ask you whether you are better,” he said to         are as a brook of many voices; they have depth also. Senatorial
           Clara, sparkled to Laetitia, and raised a key to the level of Dr.   Port! we say. We cannot say that of any other wine. Port is
           Middleton’s breast, remarking, “I am going down to my inner         deep-sea deep. It is in its flavour deep; mark the difference. It
           cellar.”                                                            is like a classic tragedy, organic in conception. An ancient
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               “An inner cellar!” exclaimed the doctor.                        Hermitage has the light of the antique; the merit that it can
               “Sacred from the butler. It is interdicted to Stoneman.         grow to an extreme old age; a merit. Neither of Hermitage
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           296                                                                                                                              297

           nor of Hock can you say that it is the blood of those long         coupled with Dr. Middleton in discourse as a drum duetting
           years, retaining the strength of youth with the wisdom of age.     with a bass-viol; and when he struck in he received correction
           To Port for that! Port is our noblest legacy! Observe, I do not    from the paedagogue-instrument. If he thumped affirmative
           compare the wines; I distinguish the qualities. Let them live      or negative, he was wrong. However, he knew scholars to be an
           together for our enrichment; they are not rivals like the Idaean   unmannered species; and the doctor’s learnedness would be a
           Three. Were they rivals, a fourth would challenge them. Bur-       subject to dilate on.
           gundy has great genius. It does wonders within its period; it          In the cellar, it was the turn for the drum. Dr. Middleton
           does all except to keep up in the race; it is short-lived. An      was tongue-tied there. Sir Willoughby gave the history of his
           aged Burgundy runs with a beardless Port. I cherish the fancy      wine in heads of chapters; whence it came to the family origi-
           that Port speaks the sentences of wisdom, Burgundy sings the       nally, and how it had come down to him in the quantity to be
           inspired Ode. Or put it, that Port is the Homeric hexameter,       seen. “Curiously, my grandfather, who inherited it, was a wa-
           Burgundy the pindaric dithyramb. What do you say?”                 ter-drinker. My father died early.”
                “The comparison is excellent, sir.”                               “Indeed! Dear me!” the doctor ejaculated in astonishment
                “The distinction, you would remark. Pindar astounds. But      and condolence. The former glanced at the contrariety of man,
           his elder brings us the more sustaining cup. One is a fountain     the latter embraced his melancholy destiny.
           of prodigious ascent. One is the unsounded purple sea of               He was impressed with respect for the family. This cool
           marching billows.”                                                 vaulted cellar, and the central square block, or enceinte, where
                “A very fine distinction.”                                    the thick darkness was not penetrated by the intruding lamp,
                “I conceive you to be now commending the similes. They        but rather took it as an eye, bore witness to forethoughtful
           pertain to the time of the first critics of those poets. Touch     practical solidity in the man who had built the house on such
           the Greeks, and you can nothing new; all has been said: ‘Graiis    foundations. A house having a great wine stored below lives
           . . . praeter, laudem nullius avaris.’ Genius dedicated to Fame    in our imaginations as a joyful house, fast and splendidly rooted
           is immortal. We, sir, dedicate genius to the cloacaline floods.    in the soil. And imagination has a place for the heir of the
           We do not address the unforgetting gods, but the popular           house. His grandfather a water-drinker, his father dying early,
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           stomach.”                                                          present circumstances to us arguing predestination to an il-
                Sir Willoughby was patient. He was about as accordantly       lustrious heirship and career. Dr Middleton’s musings were
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           298                                                                                                                               299

           coloured by the friendly vision of glasses of the great wine;      Middleton summed the attributes of the cellar on quitting it.
           his mind was festive; it pleased him, and he chose to indulge      “North side and South. No musty damp. A pure air. Every-
           in his whimsical, robustious, grandiose-airy style of thinking:    thing requisite. One might lie down one’s self and keep sweet
           from which the festive mind will sometimes take a certain          here.”
           print that we cannot obliterate immediately. Expectation is            Of all our venerable British of the two Isles professing a
           grateful, you know; in the mood of gratitude we are waxen.         suckling attachment to an ancient port-wine, lawyer, doctor,
           And he was a self-humouring gentleman.                             squire, rosy admiral, city merchant, the classic scholar is he
               He liked Sir Willoughby’s tone in ordering the servant at      whose blood is most nuptial to the webbed bottle. The reason
           his heels to take up “those two bottles”: it prescribed, without   must be, that he is full of the old poets. He has their spirit to
           overdoing it, a proper amount of caution, and it named an          sing with, and the best that Time has done on earth to feed it.
           agreeable number.                                                  He may also perceive a resemblance in the wine to the studi-
               Watching the man’s hand keenly, he said:                       ous mind, which is the obverse of our mortality, and throws
               “But here is the misfortune of a thing super-excellent:—       off acids and crusty particles in the piling of the years, until it
           not more than one in twenty will do it justice.”                   is fulgent by clarity. Port hymns to his conservatism. It is
               Sir Willoughby replied: “Very true, sir; and I think we        magical: at one sip he is off swimming in the purple flood of
           may pass over the nineteen.”                                       the ever-youthful antique.
               “Women, for example; and most men.”                                By comparison, then, the enjoyment of others is brutish;
               “This wine would be a scaled book to them.”                    they have not the soul for it; but he is worthy of the wine, as
               “I believe it would. It would be a grievous waste.”            are poets of Beauty. In truth, these should be severally appor-
               “Vernon is a claret man; and so is Horace De Craye. They       tioned to them, scholar and poet, as his own good thing. Let
           are both below the mark of this wine. They will join the la-       it be so.
           dies. Perhaps you and I, sir, might remain together.”                  Meanwhile Dr. Middleton sipped.
               “With the utmost good-will on my part.”                            After the departure of the ladies, Sir Willoughby had prac-
               “I am anxious for your verdict, sir.”                          tised a studied curtness upon Vernon and Horace.
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               “You shall have it, sir, and not out of harmony with the           “You drink claret,” he remarked to them, passing it round.
           chorus preceding me, I can predict. Cool, not frigid.” Dr.         “Port, I think, Doctor Middleton? The wine before you may
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           300                                                                                                                                 301

           serve for a preface. We shall have your wine in five minutes.”     blessing. On you it devolves to retard the day of the last dozen.”
               The claret jug empty, Sir Willoughby offered to send for           “Your opinion of the wine is favourable, sir?”
           more. De Craye was languid over the question. Vernon rose              “I will say this:—shallow souls run to rhapsody:—I will
           from the table.                                                    say, that I am consoled for not having lived ninety years back,
               “We have a bottle of Doctor Middleton’s port coming in,”       or at any period but the present, by this one glass of your
           Willoughby said to him.                                            ancestral wine.”
               “Mine, you call it?” cried the doctor.                             “I am careful of it,” Sir Willoughby said, modestly; “still
               “It’s a royal wine, that won’t suffer sharing,” said Vernon.   its natural destination is to those who can appreciate it. You
               “We’ll be with you, if you go into the billiard-room,          do, sir.”
           Vernon.”                                                               “Still my good friend, still! It is a charge; it is a possession,
               “I shall hurry my drinking of good wine for no man,” said      but part in trusteeship. Though we cannot declare it an en-
           the Rev. Doctor.                                                   tailed estate, our consciences are in some sort pledged that it
               “Horace?”                                                      shall be a succession not too considerably diminished.”
               “I’m beneath it, ephemeral, Willoughby. I am going to              “You will not object to drink it, sir, to the health of your
           the ladies.”                                                       grandchildren. And may you live to toast them in it on their
               Vernon and De Craye retired upon the arrival of the wine;      marriage-day!”
           and Dr. Middleton sipped. He sipped and looked at the owner            “You colour the idea of a prolonged existence in seductive
           of it.                                                             hues. Ha! It is a wine for Tithonus. This wine would speed
               “Some thirty dozen?” he said.                                  him to the rosy Morning—aha!”
               “Fifty.”                                                           “I will undertake to sit you through it up to morning,”
               The doctor nodded humbly.                                      said Sir Willoughby, innocent of the Bacchic nuptiality of
               “I shall remember, sir,” his host addressed him. “whenever     the allusion.
           I have the honour of entertaining you, I am cellarer of that           Dr Middleton eyed the decanter. There is a grief in glad-
           wine.”                                                             ness, for a premonition of our mortal state. The amount of
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               The Rev. Doctor set down his glass. “You have, sir, in some    wine in the decanter did not promise to sustain the starry
           sense, an enviable post. It is a responsible one, if that be a     roof of night and greet the dawn. “Old wine, my friend, de-
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           302                                                                                                                                 303

           nies us the full bottle!”                                          She has that aristocracy—the noblest. She is fair; a Beauty,
               “Another bottle is to follow.”                                 some have said, who judge not by lines. Fair to me,
               “No!”                                                          Willoughby! She is my sky. There were applicants. In Italy
               “It is ordered.”                                               she was besought of me. She has no history. You are the first
               “I protest.”                                                   heading of the chapter. With you she will have her one tale, as
               “It is uncorked.”                                              it should be. ‘Mulier tum bene olet’, you know. Most fra-
               “I entreat.”                                                   grant she that smells of naught. She goes to you from me,
               “It is decanted.”                                              from me alone, from her father to her husband. ‘Ut flos in
               “I submit. But, mark, it must be honest partnership. You       septis secretus nascitur hortis.’” He murmured on the lines to,
           are my worthy host, sir, on that stipulation. Note the superi-     “‘Sic virgo, dum . . .’ I shall feel the parting. She goes to one
           ority of wine over Venus!—I may say, the magnanimity of            who will have my pride in her, and more. I will add, who will
           wine; our jealousy turns on him that will not share! But the       be envied. Mr. Whitford must write you a Carmen Nuptiale.”
           corks, Willoughby. The corks excite my amazement.”                     The heart of the unfortunate gentleman listening to Dr.
               “The corking is examined at regular intervals. I remember      Middleton set in for irregular leaps. His offended temper
           the occurrence in my father’s time. I have seen to it once.”       broke away from the image of Clara, revealing her as he had
               “It must be perilous as an operation for tracheotomy; which    seen her in the morning beside Horace De Craye, distress-
           I should assume it to resemble in surgical skill and firmness      ingly sweet; sweet with the breezy radiance of an English
           of hand, not to mention the imminent gasp of the patient.”         soft-breathing day; sweet with sharpness of young sap. Her
               A fresh decanter was placed before the doctor.                 eyes, her lips, her fluttering dress that played happy mother
               He said: “I have but a girl to give!” He was melted.           across her bosom, giving peeps of the veiled twins; and her
               Sir Willoughby replied: “I take her for the highest prize      laughter, her slim figure, peerless carriage, all her terrible sweet-
           this world affords.”                                               ness touched his wound to the smarting quick.
               “I have beaten some small stock of Latin into her head,            Her wish to be free of him was his anguish. In his pain he
           and a note of Greek. She contains a savour of the classics. I      thought sincerely. When the pain was easier he muffled him-
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           hoped once . . . But she is a girl. The nymph of the woods is in   self in the idea of her jealousy of Laetitia Dale, and deemed
           her. Still she will bring you her flower-cup of Hippocrene.        the wish a fiction. But she had expressed it. That was the
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           304                                                                                                                               305

           wound he sought to comfort; for the double reason, that he              “You gratify me, Doctor Middleton, and relieve me.”
           could love her better after punishing her, and that to medi-            “I cordially dislike a breach in good habits, Willoughby.
           tate on doing so masked the fear of losing her—the dread            But I do remember—was I wrong?—informing Clara that
           abyss she had succeeded in forcing his nature to shudder at as      you appeared light-hearted in regard to a departure, or gap in
           a giddy edge possibly near, in spite of his arts of self-defence.   a visit, that was not, I must confess, to my liking.”
               “What I shall do to-morrow evening!” he exclaimed. “I do            “Simply, my dear doctor, your pleasure was my pleasure;
           not care to fling a bottle to Colonel De Craye and Vernon. I        but make my pleasure yours, and you remain to crack many a
           cannot open one for myself. To sit with the ladies will be          bottle with your son-in-law.”
           sitting in the cold for me. When do you bring me back my                “Excellently said. You have a courtly speech, Willoughby.
           bride, sir?”                                                        I can imagine you to conduct a lovers’ quarrel with a polite-
               “My dear Willoughby!” The Rev. Doctor puffed, com-              ness to read a lesson to well-bred damsels. Aha?”
           posed himself, and sipped. “The expedition is an absurdity. I           “Spare me the futility of the quarrel.”
           am unable to see the aim of it. She had a headache, vapours.            “All’s well?”
           They are over, and she will show a return of good sense. I have         “Clara,” replied Sir Willoughby, in dramatic epigram, “is
           ever maintained that nonsense is not to be encouraged in girls.     perfection.”
           I can put my foot on it. My arrangements are for staying here           “I rejoice,” the Rev. Doctor responded; taught thus to un-
           a further ten days, in the terms of your hospitable invitation.     derstand that the lovers’ quarrel between his daughter and his
           And I stay.”                                                        host was at an end.
               “I applaud your resolution, sir. Will you prove firm?”              He left the table a little after eleven o’clock. A short dia-
               “I am never false to my engagement, Willoughby.”                logue ensued upon the subject of the ladies. They must have
               “Not under pressure?”                                           gone to bed? Why, yes; of course they must. It is good that
               “Under no pressure.”                                            they should go to bed early to preserve their complexions for
               “Persuasion, I should have said.”                               us. Ladies are creation’s glory, but they are anti-climax, fol-
               “Certainly not. The weakness is in the yielding, either to      lowing a wine of a century old. They are anti-climax, recoil,
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           persuasion or to pressure. The latter brings weight to bear on      cross-current; morally, they are repentance, penance;
           us; the former blows at our want of it.”                            imagerially, the frozen North on the young brown buds burst-
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           306                                                                                                                             307

           ing to green. What know they of a critic in the palate, and a     fiftieth dozen. Daily one will preserve us from having to name
           frame all revelry! And mark you, revelry in sobriety, contain-    the fortieth quite so unseasonably. The couple of bottles per
           ment in exultation; classic revelry. Can they, dear though they   diem prognosticates disintegration, with its accompanying
           be to us, light up candelabras in the brain, to illuminate all    recklessness. Constitutionally, let me add, I bear three. I speak
           history and solve the secret of the destiny of man? They can-     for posterity.”
           not; they cannot sympathize with them that can. So there-             During Dr. Middleton’s allocution the ladies issued from
           fore this division is between us; yet are we not turbaned Ori-    the drawing-room, Clara foremost, for she had heard her
           entals, nor are they inmates of the harem. We are not Mos-        father’s voice, and desired to ask him this in reference to their
           lem. Be assured of it in the contemplation of the table’s de-     departure: “Papa, will you tell me the hour to-morrow?”
           canter.                                                               She ran up the stairs to kiss him, saying again: “When
              Dr Middleton said: “Then I go straight to bed.”                will you be ready to-morrow morning?”
              “I will conduct you to your door, sir,” said his host.             Dr Middleton announced a stoutly deliberative mind in
              The piano was heard. Dr. Middleton laid his hand on the        the bugle-notes of a repeated ahem. He bethought him of
           banisters, and remarked: “The ladies must have gone to bed?”      replying in his doctorial tongue. Clara’s eager face admon-
              Vernon came out of the library and was hailed, “Fellow-        ished him to brevity: it began to look starved. Intruding on
           student!”                                                         his vision of the houris couched in the inner cellar to be the
              He waved a good-night to the Doctor, and said to               reward of valiant men, it annoyed him. His brows joined. He
           Willoughby: “The ladies are in the drawing-room.”                 said: “I shall not be ready to-morrow morning.”
              “I am on my way upstairs,” was the reply.                          “In the afternoon?”
              “Solitude and sleep, after such a wine as that; and forefend       “Nor in the afternoon.”
           us human society!” the Doctor shouted. “But, Willoughby!”             “When?”
              “Sir.”                                                             “My dear, I am ready for bed at this moment, and know of
              “One to-morrow.”                                               no other readiness. Ladies,” he bowed to the group in the hall
              “You dispose of the cellar, sir.”                              below him, “may fair dreams pay court to you this night!”
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              “I am fitter to drive the horses of the sun. I would rigidly       Sir Willoughby had hastily descended and shaken the
           counsel, one, and no more. We have made a breach in the           hands of the ladies, directed Horace De Craye to the labora-
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           308                                                                                                                             309

           tory for a smoking-room, and returned to Dr. Middleton.
           Vexed by the scene, uncertain of his temper if he stayed with
           Clara, for whom he had arranged that her disappointment
           should take place on the morrow, in his absence, he said:
           “Good-night, good-night,” to her, with due fervour, bending
           over her flaccid finger-tips; then offered his arm to the Rev.
           Doctor.
               “Ay, son Willoughby, in friendliness, if you will, though I
           am a man to bear my load,” the father of the stupefied girl
           addressed him. “Candles, I believe, are on the first landing.
           Good-night, my love. Clara!”                                                            Chapter 21.
               “Papa!”                                                                                  Clara’s meditations.
               “Good-night.”
               “Oh!” she lifted her breast with the interjection, standing      Two were sleepless that night: Miss Middleton and Colo-
           in shame of the curtained conspiracy and herself, “good night”.   nel De Craye.
               Her father wound up the stairs. She stepped down.                She was in a fever, lying like stone, with her brain burning.
               “There was an understanding that papa and I should go         Quick natures run out to calamity in any little shadow of it
           to London to-morrow early,” she said, unconcernedly, to the       flung before. Terrors of apprehension drive them. They stop
           ladies, and her voice was clear, but her face too legible. De     not short of the uttermost when they are on the wings of
           Craye was heartily unhappy at the sight.                          dread. A frown means tempest, a wind wreck; to see fire is to
                                                                             be seized by it. When it is the approach of their loathing that
                                                                             they fear, they are in the tragedy of the embrace at a breath;
                                                                             and then is the wrestle between themselves and horror, be-
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                                                                             tween themselves and evil, which promises aid; themselves
                                                                             and weakness, which calls on evil; themselves and the better
                                                                             part of them, which whispers no beguilement.
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           310                                                                                                                              311

               The false course she had taken through sophistical cow-        seed of good teaching supports a soul, for the condition might
           ardice appalled the girl; she was lost. The advantage taken of     be mapped, and where kismet whispers us to shut eyes, and
           it by Willoughby put on the form of strength, and made her         instruction bids us look up, is at a well-marked cross-road of
           feel abject, reptilious; she was lost, carried away on the flood   the contest.
           of the cataract. He had won her father for an ally. Strangely,         Quick of sensation, but not courageously resolved, she
           she knew not how, he had succeeded in swaying her father,          perceived how blunderingly she had acted. For a punishment,
           who had previously not more than tolerated him. “Son               it seemed to her that she who had not known her mind must
           Willoughby” on her father’s lips meant something that scenes       learn to conquer her nature, and submit. She had accepted
           and scenes would have to struggle with, to the out-wearying        Willoughby; therefore she accepted him. The fact became a
           of her father and herself. She revolved the “Son Willoughby”       matter of the past, past debating.
           through moods of stupefaction, contempt, revolt, subjection.           In the abstract this contemplation of circumstances went
           It meant that she was vanquished. It meant that her father’s       well. A plain duty lay in her way. And then a disembodied
           esteem for her was forfeited. She saw him a gigantic image of      thought flew round her, comparing her with Vernon to her
           discomposure.                                                      discredit. He had for years borne much that was distasteful to
               Her recognition of her cowardly feebleness brought the         him, for the purpose of studying, and with his poor income
           brood of fatalism. What was the right of so miserable a crea-      helping the poorer than himself. She dwelt on him in pity
           ture as she to excite disturbance, let her fortunes be good or     and envy; he had lived in this place, and so must she; and he
           ill? It would be quieter to float, kinder to everybody. Thank      had not been dishonoured by his modesty: he had not failed
           heaven for the chances of a short life! Once in a net, despera-    of self-control, because he had a life within. She was almost
           tion is graceless. We may be brutes in our earthly destinies: in   imagining she might imitate him when the clash of a sharp
           our endurance of them we need not be brutish.                      physical thought, “The difference! the difference!” told her
               She was now in the luxury of passivity, when we throw          she was woman and never could submit. Can a woman have
           our burden on the Powers above, and do not love them. The          an inner life apart from him she is yoked to? She tried to
           need to love them drew her out of it, that she might strive        nestle deep away in herself: in some corner where the abstract
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           with the unbearable, and by sheer striving, even though she        view had comforted her, to flee from thinking as her feminine
           were graceless, come to love them humbly. It is here that the      blood directed. It was a vain effort. The difference, the cruel
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           312                                                                                                                               313

           fate, the defencelessness of women, pursued her, strung her to      friends and the world had, provided that he kept at the same
           wild horses’ backs, tossed her on savage wastes. In her case        distance from her, was the termination of this phase, occupy-
           duty was shame: hence, it could not be broadly duty. That           ing about a minute in time, and reached through a series of
           intolerable difference proscribed the word.                         intensely vivid pictures:—his face, at her petition to be re-
                But the fire of a brain burning high and kindling every-       leased, lowering behind them for a background and a com-
           thing lighted up herself against herself.—Was one so volatile       ment.
           as she a person with a will?—Were they not a multitude of                “I cannot! I cannot!” she cried, aloud; and it struck her
           flitting wishes that she took for a will? Was she, feather-headed   that her repulsion was a holy warning. Better be graceless
           that she was, a person to make a stand on physical pride?—If        than a loathing wife: better appear inconsistent. Why should
           she could yield her hand without reflection (as she conceived       she not appear such as she was?
           she had done, from incapacity to conceive herself doing it               Why? We answer that question usually in angry reliance
           reflectively) was she much better than purchaseable stuff that      on certain superb qualities, injured fine qualities of ours un-
           has nothing to say to the bargain?                                  discovered by the world, not much more than suspected by
                Furthermore, said her incandescent reason, she had not         ourselves, which are still our fortress, where pride sits at home,
           suspected such art of cunning in Willoughby. Then might             solitary and impervious as an octogenarian conservative. But
           she not be deceived altogether—might she not have misread           it is not possible to answer it so when the brain is rageing like
           him? Stronger than she had fancied, might he not be likewise        a pine-torch and the devouring illumination leaves not a spot
           more estimable? The world was favourable to him; he was             of our nature covert. The aspect of her weakness was unre-
           prized by his friends.                                              lieved, and frightened her back to her loathing. From her loath-
                She reviewed him. It was all in one flash. It was not much     ing, as soon as her sensations had quickened to realize it, she
           less intentionally favourable than the world’s review and that      was hurled on her weakness. She was graceless, she was incon-
           of his friends, but, beginning with the idea of them, she rec-      sistent, she was volatile, she was unprincipled, she was worse
           ollected—heard Willoughby’s voice pronouncing his opin-             than a prey to wickedness—capable of it; she was only wait-
           ion of his friends and the world; of Vernon Whitford and            ing to be misled. Nay, the idea of being misled suffused her
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           Colonel De Craye for example, and of men and women. An              with languor; for then the battle would be over and she a
           undefined agreement to have the same regard for him as his          happy weed of the sea no longer suffering those tugs at the
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           314                                                                                                                               315

           roots, but leaving it to the sea to heave and contend. She would    quite harmless. And besides (you are not to expect logical
           he like Constantia then: like her in her fortunes: never so         sequences) the showery refreshment in thinking of him lay in
           brave, she feared.                                                  the sort of assurance it conveyed, that the more she thought,
               Perhaps very like Constantia in her fortunes!                   the less would he be likely to figure as an obnoxious offi-
               Poor troubled bodies waking up in the night to behold           cial—that is, as the man to do by Willoughby at the altar
           visually the spectre cast forth from the perplexed machinery        what her father would, under the supposition, be doing by
           inside them, stare at it for a space, till touching consciousness   her. Her mind reposed on Colonel De Craye.
           they dive down under the sheets with fish-like alacrity. Clara           His name was Horace. Her father had worked with her at
           looked at her thought, and suddenly headed downward in a            Horace. She knew most of the Odes and some of the Satires
           crimson gulf.                                                       and Epistles of the poet. They reflected benevolent beams on
               She must have obtained absolution, or else it was oblivion,     the gentleman of the poet’s name. He too was vivacious, had
           below. Soon after the plunge her first object of meditation         fun, common sense, elegance; loved rusticity, he said, sighed
           was Colonel De Craye. She thought of him calmly: he seemed          for a country life, fancied retiring to Canada to cultivate his
           a refuge. He was very nice, he was a holiday character. His         own domain; “modus agri non ita magnus:” a delight. And he,
           lithe figure, neat firm footing of the stag, swift intelligent      too, when in the country, sighed for town. There were strong
           expression, and his ready frolicsomeness, pleasant humour,          features of resemblance. He had hinted in fun at not being
           cordial temper, and his Irishry, whereon he was at liberty to       rich. “Quae virtus et quanta sit vivere parvo.” But that quota-
           play, as on the emblem harp of the Isle, were soothing to           tion applied to and belonged to Vernon Whitford. Even so
           think of. The suspicion that she tricked herself with this calm     little disarranged her meditations.
           observation of him was dismissed. Issuing out of torture, her            She would have thought of Vernon, as her instinct of safety
           young nature eluded the irradiating brain in search of re-          prompted, had not his exactions been excessive. He proposed
           freshment, and she luxuriated at a feast in considering him—        to help her with advice only. She was to do everything for
           shower on a parched land that he was! He spread new air             herself, do and dare everything, decide upon everything. He
           abroad. She had no reason to suppose he was not a good man:         told her flatly that so would she learn to know her own mind;
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           she could securely think of him. Besides he was bound by his        and flatly, that it was her penance. She had gained nothing by
           prospective office in support of his friend Willoughby to be        breaking down and pouring herself out to him. He would
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           316                                                                                                                               317

           have her bring Willoughby and her father face to face, and be       very clearly doomed.
           witness of their interview—herself the theme. What alterna-             After a fall of tears, upon looking at the scraps, she dressed
           tive was there?—obedience to the word she had pledged. He           herself, and sat by the window and watched the blackbird on
           talked of patience, of self-examination and patience. But all       the lawn as he hopped from shafts of dewy sunlight to the
           of her—she was all marked urgent. This house was a cage, and        long-stretched dewy tree-shadows, considering in her mind
           the world—her brain was a cage, until she could obtain her          that dark dews are more meaningful than bright, the beauty
           prospect of freedom.                                                of the dews of woods more sweet than meadow-dews. It sig-
               As for the house, she might leave it; yonder was the dawn.      nified only that she was quieter. She had gone through her
               She went to her window to gaze at the first colour along        crisis in the anticipation of it. That is how quick natures will
           the grey. Small satisfaction came of gazing at that or at her-      often be cold and hard, or not much moved, when the posi-
           self. She shunned glass and sky. One and the other stamped          tive crisis arrives, and why it is that they are prepared for
           her as a slave in a frame. It seemed to her she had been so long    astonishing leaps over the gradations which should render their
           in this place that she was fixed here: it was her world, and to     conduct comprehensible to us, if not excuseable. She watched
           imagine an Alp was like seeking to get back to childhood.           the blackbird throw up his head stiffly, and peck to right and
           Unless a miracle intervened here she would have to pass her         left, dangling the worm on each side his orange beak.
           days. Men are so little chivalrous now that no miracle ever         Specklebreasted thrushes were at work, and a wagtail that ran
           intervenes. Consequently she was doomed.                            as with Clara’s own rapid little steps. Thrush and blackbird
               She took a pen and began a letter to a dear friend, Lucy        flew to the nest. They had wings. The lovely morning breathed
           Darleton, a promised bridesmaid, bidding her countermand            of sweet earth into her open window, and made it painful, in
           orders for her bridal dress, and purposing a tour in Switzer-       the dense twitter, chirp, cheep, and song of the air, to resist
           land. She wrote of the mountain country with real abandon-          the innocent intoxication. O to love! was not said by her, but
           ment to imagination. It became a visioned loophole of escape.       if she had sung, as her nature prompted, it would have been.
           She rose and clasped a shawl over her night-dress to ward off       Her war with Willoughby sprang of a desire to love repelled
           chillness, and sitting to the table again, could not produce a      by distaste. Her cry for freedom was a cry to be free to love:
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           word. The lines she had written were condemned: they were           she discovered it, half shuddering: to love, oh! no—no shape
           ludicrously inefficient. The letter was torn to pieces. She stood   of man, nor impalpable nature either: but to love unselfish-
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           318                                                                                                                               319

           ness, and helpfulness, and planted strength in something.           edged by over-activity they must hoodwink their maidenliness
           Then, loving and being loved a little, what strength would be       to suffer themselves to read; and then they must dupe their
           hers! She could utter all the words needed to Willoughby            minds, else men would soon see they were gifted to discern.
           and to her father, locked in her love: walking in this world,       Total ignorance being their pledge of purity to men, they
           living in that.                                                     have to expunge the writing of their perceptives on the tab-
               Previously she had cried, despairing: If I were loved! Jeal-    lets of the brain: they have to know not when they do know.
           ousy of Constantia’s happiness, envy of her escape, ruled her       The instinct of seeking to know, crossed by the task of blot-
           then: and she remembered the cry, though not perfectly her          ting knowledge out, creates that conflict of the natural with
           plain-speaking to herself: she chose to think she had meant:        the artificial creature to which their ultimately revealed double-
           If Willoughby were capable of truly loving! For now the fire        face, complained of by ever-dissatisfied men, is owing. Won-
           of her brain had sunk, and refuges and subterfuges were round       der in no degree that they indulge a craving to be fools, or
           about it. The thought of personal love was encouraged, she          that many of them act the character. Jeer at them as little for
           chose to think, for the sake of the strength it lent her to carve   not showing growth. You have reared them to this pitch, and
           her way to freedom. She had just before felt rather the re-         at this pitch they have partly civilized you. Supposing you to
           verse, but she could not exist with that feeling; and it was        want it done wholly, you must yield just as many points in
           true that freedom was not so indistinct in her fancy as the         your requisitions as are needed to let the wits of young women
           idea of love.                                                       reap their due harvest and be of good use to their souls. You
               Were men, when they were known, like him she knew too           will then have a fair battle, a braver, with better results.
           well?                                                                   Clara’s inner eye traversed Colonel De Craye at a shot.
               The arch-tempter’s question to her was there.                       She had immediately to blot out the vision of Captain
               She put it away. Wherever she turned it stood observing         Oxford in him, the revelation of his laughing contempt for
           her. She knew so much of one man, nothing of the rest: natu-        Willoughby, the view of mercurial principles, the scribbled
           rally she was curious. Vernon might be sworn to be unlike.          histories of light love-passages.
           But he was exceptional. What of the other in the house?                 She blotted it out, kept it from her mind: so she knew
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               Maidens are commonly reduced to read the masters of             him, knew him to be a sweeter and a variable Willoughby, a
           their destinies by their instincts; and when these have been        generous kind of Willoughby, a Willoughby-butterfly, with-
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           320                                                                                                                               321

           out having the free mind to summarize him and picture him           Clara’s heart beat at a fancy that her name was mentioned. If
           for a warning. Scattered features of him, such as the instincts     those flowers were for her she would prize them.
           call up, were not sufficiently impressive. Besides, the clouded         The two bathers dipped over an undulation.
           mind was opposed to her receiving impressions.                          Her loss of them rattled her chains.
               Young Crossjay’s voice in the still morning air came to her         Deeply dwelling on their troubles has the effect upon the
           cars. The dear guileless chatter of the boy’s voice. Why, assur-    young of helping to forgetfulness; for they cannot think with-
           edly it was young Crossjay who was the man she loved. And           out imagining, their imaginations are saturated with their
           he loved her. And he was going to be an unselfish, sustaining,      Pleasures, and the collision, though they are unable to ex-
           true, strong man, the man she longed for, for anchorage. Oh,        change sad for sweet, distills an opiate.
           the dear voice! woodpecker and thrush in one. He never ceased           “Am I solemnly engaged?” she asked herself. She seemed
           to chatter to Vernon Whitford walking beside him with a             to be awakening.
           swinging stride off to the lake for their morning swim. Happy           She glanced at her bed, where she had passed the night of
           couple! The morning gave them both a freshness and inno-            ineffectual moaning, and out on the high wave of grass, where
           cence above human. They seemed to Clara made of morning             Crossjay and his good friend had vanished.
           air and clear lake water. Crossjay’s voice ran up and down a            Was the struggle all to be gone over again?
           diatonic scale with here and there a query in semitone and a            Little by little her intelligence of her actual position crept
           laugh on a ringing note. She wondered what he could have to         up to submerge her heart.
           talk of so incessantly, and imagined all the dialogue. He               “I am in his house!” she said. It resembled a discovery, so
           prattled of his yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, which did         strangely had her opiate and power of dreaming wrought
           not imply past and future, but his vivid present. She felt like     through her tortures. She said it gasping. She was in his house,
           one vainly trying to fly in hearing him; she felt old. The con-     his guest, his betrothed, sworn to him. The fact stood out cut
           solation she arrived at was to feel maternal. She wished to hug     in steel on the pitiless daylight.
           the boy.                                                                That consideration drove her to be an early wanderer in
               Trot and stride, Crossjay and Vernon entered the park,          the wake of Crossjay.
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           careless about wet grass, not once looking at the house. Crossjay       Her station was among the beeches on the flank of the
           ranged ahead and picked flowers, bounding back to show them.        boy’s return; and while waiting there the novelty of her wait-
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           322                                                                                                                             323

           ing to waylay anyone—she who had played the contrary                  Vernon doubled to catch him. Crossjay fled and resumed
           part!—told her more than it pleased her to think. Yet she         his magnificent air in the distance.
           could admit that she did desire to speak with Vernon, as with         “Good-morning, Miss Middleton; you are out early,” said
           a counsellor, harsh and curt, but wholesome.                      Vernon, rather pale and stringy from his cold swim, and rather
               The bathers reappeared on the grass-ridge, racing and flap-   hard-eyed with the sharp exercise following it.
           ping wet towels.                                                      She had expected some of the kindness she wanted to re-
               Some one hailed them. A sound of the galloping hoof drew      ject, for he could speak very kindly, and she regarded him as
           her attention to the avenue. She saw Willoughby dash across       her doctor of medicine, who would at least present the futile
           the park level, and dropping a word to Vernon, ride away.         drug.
           Then she allowed herself to be seen.                                  “Good morning,” she replied.
               Crossjay shouted. Willoughby turned his head, but not             “Willoughby will not be home till the evening.”
           his horse’s head. The boy sprang up to Clara. He had swum             “You could not have had a finer morning for your bath.”
           across the lake and back; he had raced Mr. Whitford—and               “No.”
           beaten him! How he wished Miss Middleton had been able                “I will walk as fast as you like.”
           to be one of them!                                                    “I’m perfectly warm.”
               Clara listened to him enviously. Her thought was: We              “But you prefer fast walking.”
           women are nailed to our sex!                                          “Out.”
               She said: “And you have just been talking to Sir                  “Ah! yes, that I understand. The walk back! Why is
           Willoughby.”                                                      Willoughby away to-day?”
               Crossjay drew himself up to give an imitation of the              “He has business.”
           baronet’s hand-moving in adieu.                                       After several steps she said: “He makes very sure of papa.”
               He would not have done that had he not smelled sympa-             “Not without reason, you will find,” said Vernon.
           thy with the performance.                                             “Can it be? I am bewildered. I had papa’s promise.”
               She declined to smile. Crossjay repeated it, and laughed.         “To leave the Hall for a day or two.”
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           He made a broader exhibition of it to Vernon approaching:             “It would have been . . .”
           “I say. Mr. Whitford, who’s this?”                                    “Possibly. But other heads are at work as well as yours. If
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           324                                                                                                                               325

           you had been in earnest about it you would have taken your              “Why? What right?”
           father into your confidence at once. That was the course I              “The right you admit when you ask him to release you.
           ventured to propose, on the supposition.”                           He has the right to think you deluded; and to think you may
               “In earnest! I cannot imagine that you doubt it. I wished       come to a better mood if you remain—a mood more agree-
           to spare him.”                                                      able to him, I mean. He has that right absolutely. You are
               “This is a case in which he can’t be spared.”                   bound to remember also that you stand in the wrong. You
               “If I had been bound to any other! I did not know then          confess it when you appeal to his generosity. And every man
           who held me a prisoner. I thought I had only to speak to him        has the right to retain a treasure in his hand if he can. Look
           sincerely.”                                                         straight at these facts.”
               “Not many men would give up their prize for a word,                 “You expect me to be all reason!”
           Willoughby the last of any.”                                            “Try to be. It’s the way to learn whether you are really in
               “Prize” rang through her thrillingly from Vernon’s mouth,       earnest.”
           and soothed her degradation.                                            “I will try. It will drive me to worse!”
               She would have liked to protest that she was very little of         “Try honestly. What is wisest now is, in my opinion, for
           a prize; a poor prize; not one at all in general estimation; only   you to resolve to stay. I speak in the character of the person
           one to a man reckoning his property; no prize in the true           you sketched for yourself as requiring. Well, then, a friend
           sense.                                                              repeats the same advice. You might have gone with your fa-
               The importunity of pain saved her.                              ther: now you will only disturb him and annoy him. The
               “Does he think I can change again? Am I treated as some-        chances are he will refuse to go.”
           thing won in a lottery? To stay here is indeed more than I can          “Are women ever so changeable as men, then? Papa con-
           bear. And if he is calculating—Mr. Whitford, if he calculates       sented; he agreed; he had some of my feeling; I saw it. That
           on another change, his plotting to keep me here is inconsider-      was yesterday. And at night! He spoke to each of us at night
           ate, not very wise. Changes may occur in absence.”                  in a different tone from usual. With me he was hardly affec-
               “Wise or not, he has the right to scheme his best to keep       tionate. But when you advise me to stay, Mr. Whitford, you
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           you.”                                                               do not perhaps reflect that it would be at the sacrifice of all
               She looked on Vernon with a shade of wondering reproach.        candour.”
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           326                                                                                                                             327

               “Regard it as a probational term.”
               “It has gone too far with me.”
               “Take the matter into the head: try the case there.”
               “Are you not counselling me as if I were a woman of intel-
           lect?”
               The crystal ring in her voice told him that tears were near
           to flowing.
               He shuddered slightly. “You have intellect,” he said, nod-
           ded, and crossed the lawn, leaving her. He had to dress.
               She was not permitted to feel lonely, for she was immedi-
           ately joined by Colonel De Craye.                                                       Chapter 22.
                                                                                                               The ride.

                                                                                Crossjay darted up to her a nose ahead of the colonel.
                                                                                “I say, Miss Middleton, we’re to have the whole day to
                                                                             ourselves, after morning lessons. Will you come and fish with
                                                                             me and see me bird’s-nest?”
                                                                                “Not for the satisfaction of beholding another cracked
                                                                             crown, my son,” the colonel interposed: and bowing to Clara:
                                                                             “Miss Middleton is handed over to my exclusive charge for
                                                                             the day, with her consent?”
                                                                                “I scarcely know,” said she, consulting a sensation of lan-
                                                                             guor that seemed to contain some reminiscence. “If I am here.
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                                                                             My father’s plans are uncertain. I will speak to him. If I am
                                                                             here, perhaps Crossjay would like a ride in the afternoon.”
                                                                                “Oh, yes,” cried the boy; “out over Bournden, through
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           328                                                                                                                              329

           Mewsey up to Closharn Beacon, and down on Aspenwell,               plaud his wine. Willoughby was good enough to tell me that
           where there’s a common for racing. And ford the stream!”           he thought I might contribute to amuse you.”
               “An inducement for you,” De Craye said to her.                     She was brooding in stupefaction on her father and the
               She smiled and squeezed the boy’s hand.                        wine as she requested Colonel De Craye to persuade
               “We won’t go without you, Crossjay.”                           Willoughby to take the general view of Crossjay’s future and
               “You don’t carry a comb, my man, when you bathe?”              act on it.
               At this remark of the colonel’s young Crossjay conceived           “He seems fond of the boy, too,” said De Craye, musingly.
           the appearance of his matted locks in the eyes of his adorable         “You speak in doubt?”
           lady. He gave her one dear look through his redness, and fled.         “Not at all. But is he not—men are queer fish!—make
               “I like that boy,” said De Craye.                              allowance for us—a trifle tyrannical, pleasantly, with those he
               “I love him,” said Clara.                                      is fond of?”
               Crossjay’s troubled eyelids in his honest young face be-           “If they look right and left?”
           came a picture for her.                                                It was meant for an interrogation; it was not with the sound
               “After all, Miss Middleton, Willoughby’s notions about         of one that the words dropped. “My dear Crossjay!” she sighed.
           him are not so bad, if we consider that you will be in the place   “I would willingly pay for him out of my own purse, and I
           of a mother to him.”                                               will do so rather than have him miss his chance. I have not
               “I think them bad.”                                            mustered resolution to propose it.”
               “You are disinclined to calculate the good fortune of the          “I may be mistaken, Miss Middleton. He talked of the
           boy in having more of you on land than he would have in            boy’s fondness of him.”
           crown and anchor buttons!”                                             “He would.”
               “You have talked of him with Willoughby,”                          “I suppose he is hardly peculiar in liking to play Pole-
               “We had a talk last night.”                                    star.”
               Of how much? thought she.                                          “He may not be.”
               “Willoughby returns?” she said.                                    “For the rest, your influence should be all-powerful.”
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               “He dines here, I know; for he holds the key of the inner          “it is not.”
           cellar, and Doctor Middleton does him the honour to ap-                De Craye looked with a wandering eye at the heavens.
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           330                                                                                                                              331

              “We are having a spell of weather perfectly superb. And        rescue the pair from a monotony multiplied by two? And so
           the odd thing is, that whenever we have splendid weather at       a bachelor’s recommendation, when each has discovered the
           home we’re all for rushing abroad. I’m booked for a Mediter-      right sort of person to be dull with, pushes them from the
           ranean cruise—postponed to give place to your ceremony.”          churchdoor on a round of adventures containing a spice of
              “That?” she could not control her accent.                      peril, if ’tis to be had. Let them be in danger of their lives the
              “What worthier?”                                               first or second day. A bachelor’s loneliness is a private affair of
              She was guilty of a pause.                                     his own; he hasn’t to look into a face to be ashamed of feeling
              De Craye saved it from an awkward length. “I have writ-        it and inflicting it at the same time; ’tis his pillow; he can
           ten half an essay on Honeymoons, Miss Middleton.”                 punch it an he pleases, and turn it over t’other side, if he’s for
              “Is that the same as a half-written essay, Colonel De          a mighty variation; there’s a dream in it. But our poor couple
           Craye?”                                                           are staring wide awake. All their dreaming’s done. They’ve
              “Just the same, with the difference that it’s a whole essay    emptied their bottle of elixir, or broken it; and she has a thirst
           written all on one side.”                                         for the use of the tongue, and he to yawn with a crony; and
              “On which side?”                                               they may converse, they’re not aware of it, more than the desert
              “The bachelor’s.”                                              that has drunk a shower. So as soon as possible she’s away to
              “Why does he trouble himself with such topics?”                the ladies, and he puts on his Club. That’s what your bach-
              “To warm himself for being left out in the cold.”              elor sees and would like to spare them; and if he didn’t see
              “Does he feel envy?”                                           something of the sort he’d be off with a noose round his neck,
              “He has to confess it.”                                        on his knees in the dew to the morning milkmaid.”
              “He has liberty.”                                                  “The bachelor is happily warned and on his guard,” said
              “A commodity he can’t tell the value of if there’s no one to   Clara, diverted, as he wished her to be. “Sketch me a few of
           buy.”                                                             the adventures you propose.”
              “Why should he wish to sell?”                                      “I have a friend who rowed his bride from the Houses of
              “He’s bent on completing his essay.”                           Parliament up the Thames to the Severn on into North Wales.
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              “To make the reading dull.”                                    They shot some pretty weirs and rapids.”
              “There we touch the key of the subject. For what is to             “That was nice.”
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           332                                                                                                                              333

               “They had an infinity of adventures, and the best proof of        “And if they capsize, why, ’tis a natural ducking!”
           the benefit they derived is, that they forgot everything about        “You forgot the lady’s dressing-bag.”
           them except that the adventures occurred.”                            “The stain on the metal for a constant reminder of his
               “Those two must have returned bright enough to please          prowess in saving it! Well, and there’s an alternative to that
           you.”                                                              scheme, and a finer:—This, then: they read dramatic pieces
               “They returned, and shone like a wrecker’s beacon to the       during courtship, to stop the saying of things over again till
           mariner. You see, Miss Middleton, there was the landscape,         the drum of the car becomes nothing but a drum to the poor
           and the exercise, and the occasional bit of danger. I think it’s   head, and a little before they affix their signatures to the fatal
           to be recommended. The scene is always changing, and not           Registry-book of the vestry, they enter into an engagement
           too fast; and ’tis not too sublime, like big mountains, to tire    with a body of provincial actors to join the troop on the day
           them of their everlasting big Ohs. There’s the difference be-      of their nuptials, and away they go in their coach and four,
           tween going into a howling wind and launching among zeph-          and she is Lady Kitty Caper for a month, and he Sir Harry
           yrs. They have fresh air and movement, and not in a railway        Highflyer. See the honeymoon spinning! The marvel to me is
           carriage; they can take in what they look on. And she has the      that none of the young couples do it. They could enjoy the
           steering ropes, and that’s a wise commencement. And my lord        world, see life, amuse the company, and come back fresh to
           is all day making an exhibition of his manly strength, bowing      their own characters, instead of giving themselves a dose of
           before her some sixty to the minute; and she, to help him,         Africa without a savage to diversify it: an impression they
           just inclines when she’s in the mood. And they’re face to face     never get over, I’m told. Many a character of the happiest
           in the nature of things, and are not under the obligation of       auspices has irreparable mischief done it by the ordinary hon-
           looking the unutterable, because, you see, there’s business in     eymoon. For my part, I rather lean to the second plan of cam-
           hand; and the boat’s just the right sort of third party, who       paign.”
           never interferes, but must be attended to. And they feel they’re      Clara was expected to reply, and she said: “Probably be-
           labouring together to get along, all in the proper proportion;     cause you are fond of acting. It would require capacity on
           and whether he has to labour in life or not, he proves his         both sides.”
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           ability. What do you think of it, Miss Middleton?”                    “Miss Middleton, I would undertake to breathe the en-
               “I think you have only to propose it, Colonel De Craye.”       thusiasm for the stage and the adventure.”
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           334                                                                                                                                335

               “You are recommending it generally.”                             sympathy than a good man who has a troubled conscience
               “Let my gentleman only have a fund of enthusiasm. The            thrust on him.
           lady will kindle. She always does at a spark.”                           The Rev. Doctor’s perturbation was observed. The ladies
               “If he has not any?”                                             Eleanor and Isabel, seeing his daughter to be the cause of it,
               “Then I’m afraid they must be mortally dull.”                    blamed her, and would have assisted him to escape, but Miss
               She allowed her silence to speak; she knew that it did so        Dale, whom he courted with that object, was of the opposite
           too eloquently, and could not control the personal adumbra-          faction. She made way for Clara to lead her father out. He
           tion she gave to the one point of light revealed in, “if he has      called to Vernon, who merely nodded while leaving the room
           not any”. Her figure seemed immediately to wear a cap and            by the window with Crossjay.
           cloak of dulness.                                                        Half an eye on Dr. Middleton’s pathetic exit in captivity
               She was full of revolt and anger, she was burning with her       sufficed to tell Colonel De Craye that parties divided the
           situation; if sensible of shame now at anything that she did, it     house. At first he thought how deplorable it would be to lose
           turned to wrath and threw the burden on the author of her            Miss Middleton for two days or three: and it struck him that
           desperate distress. The hour for blaming herself had gone by,        Vernon Whitford and Laetitia Dale were acting oddly in sec-
           to be renewed ultimately perhaps in a season of freedom. She         onding her, their aim not being discernible. For he was of the
           was bereft of her insight within at present, so blind to herself     order of gentlemen of the obscurely-clear in mind who have a
           that, while conscious of an accurate reading of Willoughby’s         predetermined acuteness in their watch upon the human play,
           friend, she thanked him in her heart for seeking simply to           and mark men and women as pieces of a bad game of chess,
           amuse her and slightly succeeding. The afternoon’s ride with         each pursuing an interested course. His experience of a sec-
           him and Crossjay was an agreeable beguilement to her in pros-        tion of the world had educated him—as gallant, frank, and
           pect.                                                                manly a comrade as one could wish for—up to this point.
               Laetitia came to divide her from Colonel De Craye. Dr.           But he soon abandoned speculations, which may be com-
           Middleton was not seen before his appearance at the break-           pared to a shaking anemometer that will not let the troubled
           fast-table, where a certain air of anxiety in his daughter’s pres-   indicator take station. Reposing on his perceptions and his
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           ence produced the semblance of a raised map at intervals on          instincts, he fixed his attention on the chief persons, only
           his forehead. Few sights on earth are more deserving of our          glancing at the others to establish a postulate, that where there
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           336                                                                                                                              337

           are parties in a house the most bewitching person present is       age, matronly wise, womanly sweet: perhaps with a couple of
           the origin of them. It is ever Helen’s achievement. Miss           little ones to love, never having known the love of a man.
           Middleton appeared to him bewitching beyond mortal; sunny               To think of a girl like Clara Middleton never having at
           in her laughter, shadowy in her smiling; a young lady shaped       nine-and-twenty, and with two fair children! known the love
           for perfect music with a lover.                                    of a man or the loving of a man, possibly, became torture to
               She was that, and no less, to every man’s eye on earth. High   the Colonel.
           breeding did not freeze her lovely girlishness.—But                     For a pacification he had to reconsider that she was as yet
           Willoughby did. This reflection intervened to blot luxurious       only nineteen and unmarried.
           picturings of her, and made itself acceptable by leading him            But she was engaged, and she was unloved. One might
           back to several instances of an evident want of harmony of the     swear to it, that she was unloved. And she was not a girl to be
           pair.                                                              satisfied with a big house and a high-nosed husband.
               And now (for purely undirected impulse all within us is             There was a rapid alteration of the sad history of Clara
           not, though we may be eye-bandaged agents under direction)         the unloved matron solaced by two little ones. A childless
           it became necessary for an honourable gentleman to cast ve-        Clara tragically loving and beloved flashed across the dark
           hement rebukes at the fellow who did not comprehend the            glass of the future.
           jewel he had won. How could Willoughby behave like so com-              Either way her fate was cruel.
           plete a donkey! De Craye knew him to be in his interior stiff,          Some astonishment moved De Craye in the contempla-
           strange, exacting: women had talked of him; he had been too        tion of the distance he had stepped in this morass of fancy.
           much for one woman—the dashing Constantia: he had worn             He distinguished the choice open to him of forward or back,
           one woman, sacrificing far more for him than Constantia, to        and he selected forward. But fancy was dead: the poetry hov-
           death. Still, with such a prize as Clara Middleton, Willoughby’s   ering about her grew invisible to him: he stood in the morass;
           behaviour was past calculating in its contemptible absurdity.      that was all he knew; and momently he plunged deeper; and
           And during courtship! And courtship of that girl! It was the       he was aware of an intense desire to see her face, that he might
           way of a man ten years after marriage.                             study her features again: he understood no more.
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               The idea drew him to picture her doatingly in her young             It was the clouding of the brain by the man’s heart, which
           matronly bloom ten years after marriage: without a touch of        had come to the knowledge that it was caught.
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           338                                                                                                                              339

               A certain measure of astonishment moved him still. It had      some way he was worrying her.
           hitherto been his portion to do mischief to women and avoid            What if Willoughby as well as Miss Middleton wished to
           the vengeance of the sex. What was there in Miss Middleton’s       be quit of the engagement? . . .
           face and air to ensnare a veteran handsome man of society              For just a second, the handsome, woman-flattered officer
           numbering six-and-thirty years, nearly as many conquests?          proved his man’s heart more whole than he supposed it. That
           “Each bullet has got its commission.” He was hit at last. That     great organ, instead of leaping at the thought, suffered a check.
           accident effected by Mr. Flitch had fired the shot. Clean              Bear in mind that his heart was not merely man’s, it was a
           through the heart, does not tell us of our misfortune, till the    conqueror’s. He was of the race of amorous heroes who glory
           heart is asked to renew its natural beating. It fell into the      in pursuing, overtaking, subduing: wresting the prize from a
           condition of the porcelain vase over a thought of Miss             rival, having her ripe from exquisitely feminine inward con-
           Middleton standing above his prostrate form on the road,           flicts, plucking her out of resistance in good old primitive
           and walking beside him to the Hall. Her words? What have           fashion. You win the creature in her delicious flutterings. He
           they been? She had not uttered words, she had shed mean-           liked her thus, in cooler blood, because of society’s admira-
           ings. He did not for an instant conceive that he had charmed       tion of the capturer, and somewhat because of the strife, which
           her: the charm she had cast on him was too thrilling for cox-      always enhances the value of a prize, and refreshes our vanity
           combry to lift a head; still she had enjoyed his prattle. In       in recollection.
           return for her touch upon the Irish fountain in him, he had            Moreover, he had been matched against Willoughby: the
           manifestly given her relief And could not one see that so          circumstance had occurred two or three times. He could name
           sprightly a girl would soon be deadened by a man like              a lady he had won, a lady he had lost. Willoughby’s large
           Willoughby? Deadened she was: she had not responded to a           fortune and grandeur of style had given him advantages at
           compliment on her approaching marriage. An allusion to it          the start. But the start often means the race—with women,
           killed her smiling. The case of Mr. Flitch, with the half wager    and a bit of luck.
           about his reinstation in the service of the Hall, was conclusive       The gentle check upon the galloping heart of Colonel De
           evidence of her opinion of Willoughby.                             Craye endured no longer than a second—a simple side-glance
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               It became again necessar y that he should abuse                in a headlong pace. Clara’s enchantingness for a temperament
           Willoughby for his folly. Why was the man worrying her? In         like his, which is to say, for him specially, in part through the
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           340                                                                                                                           341

           testimony her conquest of himself presented as to her power     ardour of Colonel De Craye had been a little sobered by his
           of sway over the universal heart known as man’s, assured him    glance at the possibility of both of the couple being of one
           she was worth winning even from a hand that dropped her.        mind on the subject of their betrothal. Desirable as it was
               He had now a double reason for exclaiming at the folly of   that they should be united in disagreeing, it reduced the ro-
           Willoughby. Willoughby’s treatment of her showed either         mance to platitude, and the third person in the drama to the
           temper or weariness. Vanity and judgement led De Craye to       appearance of a stick. No man likes to play that part. Mem-
           guess the former. Regarding her sentiments for Willoughby,      oirs of the favourites of Goddesses, if we had them, would
           he had come to his own conclusion. The certainty of it caused   confirm it of men’s tastes in this respect, though the divinest
           him to assume that he possessed an absolute knowledge of        be the prize. We behold what part they played.
           her character: she was an angel, born supple; she was a heav-       De Craye chanced to be crossing the hall from the labora-
           enly soul, with half a dozen of the tricks of earth. Skittish   tory to the stables when Clara shut the library-door behind
           filly was among his phrases; but she had a bearing and a gaze   her. He said something whimsical, and did not stop, nor did
           that forbade the dip in the common gutter for wherewithal       he look twice at the face he had been longing for.
           to paint the creature she was.                                      What he had seen made him fear there would be no ride
               Now, then, to see whether he was wrong for the first time   out with her that day. Their next meeting reassured him; she
           in his life! If not wrong, he had a chance.                     was dressed in her riding-habit, and wore a countenance reso-
               There could be nothing dishonourable in rescuing a girl     lutely cheerful. He gave himself the word of command to
           from an engagement she detested. An attempt to think it a       take his tone from her.
           service to Willoughby faded midway. De Craye dismissed              He was of a nature as quick as Clara’s. Experience pushed
           that chicanery. It would be a service to Willoughby in the      him farther than she could go in fancy; but experience laid a
           end, without question. There was that to soothe his manly       sobering finger on his practical steps, and bade them hang
           honour. Meanwhile he had to face the thought of Willoughby      upon her initiative. She talked little. Young Crossjay canter-
           as an antagonist, and the world looking heavy on his honour     ing ahead was her favourite subject. She was very much
           as a friend.                                                    changed since the early morning: his liveliness, essayed by
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               Such considerations drew him tenderly close to Miss         him at a hazard, was unsuccessful; grave English pleased her
           Middleton. It must, however, be confessed that the mental       best. The descent from that was naturally to melancholy. She
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           342                                                                                                                              343

           mentioned a regret she had that the Veil was interdicted to            By this light of her seriousness, the posting of her letter in
           women in Protestant countries. De Craye was fortunately si-        a distant village, not entrusting it to the Hall post-box, might
           lent; he could think of no other veil than the Moslem, and         have import; not that she would apprehend the violation of
           when her meaning struck his witless head, he admitted to           her private correspondence, but we like to see our letter of
           himself that devout attendance on a young lady’s mind stu-         weighty meaning pass into the mouth of the public box.
           pefies man’s intelligence. Half an hour later, he was as foolish       Consequently this letter was important. It was to suppose
           in supposing it a confidence. He was again saved by silence.       a sequency in the conduct of a variable damsel. Coupled with
               In Aspenwell village she drew a letter from her bosom and      her remark about the Veil, and with other things, not words,
           called to Crossjay to post it. The boy sang out, “Miss Lucy        breathing from her (which were the breath of her condition),
           Darleton! What a nice name!”                                       it was not unreasonably to be supposed. She might even be a
               Clara did not show that the name betrayed anything.            very consistent person. If one only had the key of her!
               She said to De Craye. “It proves he should not be here             She spoke once of an immediate visit to London, suppos-
           thinking of nice names.”                                           ing that she could induce her father to go. De Craye remem-
               Her companion replied, “You may be right.” He added, to        bered the occurrence in the Hall at night, and her aspect of
           avoid feeling too subservient: “Boys will.”                        distress.
               “Not if they have stern masters to teach them their daily          They raced along Aspenwell Common to the ford; shal-
           lessons, and some of the lessons of existence.”                    low, to the chagrin of young Crossjay, between whom and
               “Vernon Whitford is not stern enough?”                         themselves they left a fitting space for his rapture in leading
               “Mr. Whitford has to contend with other influences here.”      his pony to splash up and down, lord of the stream.
               “With Willoughby?”                                                 Swiftness of motion so strikes the blood on the brain that
               “Not with Willoughby.”                                         our thoughts are lightnings, the heart is master of them.
               He understood her. She touched the delicate indication             De Craye was heated by his gallop to venture on the an-
           firmly. The man’s, heart respected her for it; not many girls      gling question: “Am I to hear the names of the bridesmaids?”
           could be so thoughtful or dare to be so direct; he saw that she        The pace had nerved Clara to speak to it sharply: “There
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           had become deeply serious, and he felt her love of the boy to      is no need.”
           be maternal, past maiden sentiment.                                    “Have I no claim?”
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           344                                                                                                                           345

               She was mute.                                               entered a narrow lane, mysterious with possible birds’ eggs in
               “Miss Lucy Darleton, for instance; whose name I am al-      the May-green hedges. As there was not room for three abreast,
           most as much in love with as Crossjay.”                         the colonel made up the rear-guard, and was consoled by having
               “She will not be bridesmaid to me.”                         Miss Middleton’s figure to contemplate; but the readiness of
               “She declines? Add my petition, I beg.”                     her joining in Crossjay’s pastime of the nest-hunt was not so
               “To all? or to her?”                                        pleasing to a man that she had wound to a pitch of excite-
               “Do all the bridesmaids decline?”                           ment. Her scornful accent on “Marriage” rang through him.
               “The scene is too ghastly.”                                 Apparently she was beginning to do with him just as she
               “A marriage?”                                               liked, herself entirely unconcerned.
               “Girls have grown sick of it.”                                  She kept Crossjay beside her till she dismounted, and the
               “Of weddings? We’ll overcome the sickness.”                 colonel was left to the procession of elephantine ideas in his
               “With some.”                                                head, whose ponderousness he took for natural weight. We
               “Not with Miss Darleton? You tempt my eloquence.”           do not with impunity abandon the initiative. Men who have
               “You wish it?”                                              yielded it are like cavalry put on the defensive; a very small
               “To win her consent? Certainly.”                            force with an ictus will scatter them.
               “The scene?”                                                    Anxiety to recover lost ground reduced the dimensions of
               “Do I wish that?”                                           his ideas to a practical standard.
               “Marriage!” exclaimed Clara, dashing into the ford, fear-       Two ideas were opposed like duellists bent on the slaugh-
           ful of her ungovernable wildness and of what it might have      ter of one another. Either she amazed him by confirming the
           kindled.—You, father! you have driven me to                     suspicions he had gathered of her sentiments for Willoughby
           unmaidenliness!—She forgot Willoughby, in her father, who       in the moments of his introduction to her; or she amazed
           would not quit a comfortable house for her all but prostrate    him as a model for coquettes—the married and the widow
           beseeching; would not bend his mind to her explanations,        might apply to her for lessons.
           answered her with the horrid iteration of such deaf misun-          These combatants exchanged shots, but remained stand-
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           derstanding as may be associated with a tolling bell.           ing; the encounter was undecided. Whatever the result, no
               Dc Craye allowed her to catch Crossjay by herself They      person so seductive as Clara Middleton had he ever met. Her
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           346                                                                                                                               347

           cry of loathing, “Marriage!” coming from a girl, rang faintly
           clear of an ancient virginal aspiration of the sex to escape from
           their coil, and bespoke a pure, cold, savage pride that trans-
           planted his thirst for her to higher fields.




                                                                                                     Chapter 23.
                                                                                               Treats of the union of temper and policy.

                                                                                   Sir Willoughby meanwhile was on a line of conduct suit-
                                                                               ing his appreciation of his duty to himself. He had deluded
                                                                               himself with the simple notion that good fruit would come
                                                                               of the union of temper and policy.
                                                                                   No delusion is older, none apparently so promising, both
                                                                               parties being eager for the alliance. Yet, the theorist upon
                                                                               human nature will say, they are obviously of adverse disposi-
                                                                               tion. And this is true, inasmuch as neither of them win sub-
                                                                               mit to the yoke of an established union; as soon as they have
                                                                               done their mischief, they set to work tugging for a divorce.
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                                                                               But they have attractions, the one for the other, which pre-
                                                                               cipitate them to embrace whenever they meet in a breast; each
                                                                               is earnest with the owner of it to get him to officiate forth-
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           348                                                                                                                               349

           with as wedding-priest. And here is the reason: temper, to          to walk upright and straight from nothing softer than raps of
           warrant its appearance, desires to be thought as deliberative as    a bludgeon on his crown, shall foot soberly, appearing at least
           policy, and policy, the sooner to prove its shrewdness, is impa-    wary of dangerous corners.
           tient for the quick blood of temper.                                    Now Willoughby had not to be taught that temper is fa-
               It will be well for men to resolve at the first approaches of   tal to policy; he was beginning to see in addition that the
           the amorous but fickle pair upon interdicting even an acci-         temper he encouraged was particularly obnoxious to the policy
           dental temporary junction: for the astonishing sweetness of         he adopted; and although his purpose in mounting horse af-
           the couple when no more than the ghosts of them have come           ter yesterday frowning on his bride was definite, and might
           together in a projecting mind is an intoxication beyond fer-        be deemed sagacious, he bemoaned already the fatality push-
           mented grapejuice or a witch’s brewage; and under the guise         ing him ever farther from her in chase of a satisfaction impos-
           of active wits they will lead us to the parental meditation of      sible to grasp.
           antics compared with which a Pagan Saturnalia were less im-             But the bare fact that her behaviour demanded a line of
           pious in the sight of sanity. This is full-mouthed language;        policy crossed the grain of his temper: it was very offensive.
           but on our studious way through any human career we are                 Considering that she wounded him severely, her reversal
           subject to fits of moral elevation; the theme inspires it, and      of their proper parts, by taking the part belonging to him,
           the sage residing in every civilized bosom approves it.             and requiring his watchfulness, and the careful dealings he
               Decide at the outset, that temper is fatal to policy: hold      was accustomed to expect from others, and had a right to
           them with both hands in division. One might add, be doubt-          exact of her, was injuriously unjust. The feelings of a man
           ful of your policy and repress your temper: it would be to          hereditarily sensitive to property accused her of a trespassing
           suppose you wise. You can, however, by incorporating two or         imprudence, and knowing himself, by testimony of his house-
           three captains of the great army of truisms bequeathed to us        hold, his tenants, and the neighbourhood, and the world as
           by ancient wisdom, fix in your service those veteran old            well, amiable when he received his dues, he contemplated her
           standfasts to check you. They will not be serviceless in their      with an air of stiff-backed ill-treatment, not devoid of a cer-
           admonitions to your understanding, and they will so contrive        tain sanctification of martyrdom.
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           to reconcile with it the natural caperings of the wayward               His bitterest enemy would hardly declare that it was he
           young sprig Conduct, that the latter, who commonly learns           who was in the wrong.
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           350                                                                                                                             351

               Clara herself had never been audacious enough to say that.        First, however, she would have to be humbled.
           Distaste of his person was inconceivable to the favourite of          Something whispered that his hold on her was lost.
           society. The capricious creature probably wanted a whipping           In such a case, every blow he struck would set her flying
           to bring her to the understanding of the principle called mas-    farther, till the breach between them would be past bridging.
           tery, which is in man.                                                Determination not to let her go was the best finish to this
               But was he administering it? If he retained a hold on her,    perpetually revolving round which went like the same old
           he could undoubtedly apply the scourge at leisure; any kind       wheel-planks of a water mill in his head at a review of the
           of scourge; he could shun her, look on her frigidly, unbend to    injury he sustained. He had come to it before, and he came to
           her to find a warmer place for sarcasm, pityingly smile, ridi-    it again. There was his vengeance. It melted him, she was so
           cule, pay court elsewhere. He could do these things if he re-     sweet! She shone for him like the sunny breeze on water.
           tained a hold on her; and he could do them well because of        Thinking of her caused a catch of his breath.
           the faith he had in his renowned amiability; for in doing             The dreadful young woman had a keener edge for the senses
           them, he could feel that he was other than he seemed, and his     of men than sovereign beauty.
           own cordial nature was there to comfort him while he be-              It would be madness to let her go.
           stowed punishment. Cordial indeed, the chills he endured              She affected him like an outlook on the great Patterne
           were flung from the world. His heart was in that fiction: half    estate after an absence, when his welcoming flag wept for
           the hearts now beating have a mild form of it to keep them        pride above Patterne Hall!
           merry: and the chastisement he desired to inflict was really          It would be treason to let her go.
           no more than righteous vengeance for an offended goodness             It would be cruelty to her.
           of heart. Clara figuratively, absolutely perhaps, on her knees,       He was bound to reflect that she was of tender age, and
           he would raise her and forgive her. He yearned for the situa-     the foolishness of the wretch was excusable to extreme youth.
           tion. To let her understand how little she had known him! It          We toss away a flower that we are tired of smelling and do
           would be worth the pain she had dealt, to pour forth the          not wish to carry. But the rose—young woman—is not cast
           stream of re-established confidences, to paint himself to her     off with impunity. A fiend in shape of man is always behind
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           as he was; as he was in the spirit, not as he was to the world:   us to appropriate her. He that touches that rejected thing is
           though the world had reason to do him honour.                     larcenous. Willoughby had been sensible of it in the person
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           352                                                                                                                               353

           of Laetitia: and by all the more that Clara’s charms exceeded       naming you so—I cannot have been perfectly blameless.”
           the faded creature’s, he felt it now. Ten thousand Furies thick-        “To me you were, and are.”
           ened about him at a thought of her lying by the road-side               “Clara!”
           without his having crushed all bloom and odour out of her               “Willoughby!”
           which might tempt even the curiosity of the fiend, man.                 “Must I recognize the bitter truth that we two, once nearly
               On the other hand, supposing her to be there untouched,         one! so nearly one! are eternally separated?”
           universally declined by the sniffling, sagacious dog-fiend, a           “I have envisaged it. My friend—I may call you friend;
           miserable spinster for years, he could conceive notions of his      you have ever been my friend, my best friend! oh, that eyes
           remorse. A soft remorse may be adopted as an agreeable sen-         had been mine to know the friend I had!—Willoughby, in
           sation within view of the wasted penitent whom we have struck       the darkness of night, and during days that were as night to
           a trifle too hard. Seeing her penitent, he certainly would be       my soul, I have seen the inexorable finger pointing my soli-
           willing to surround her with little offices of compromising         tary way through the wilderness from a Paradise forfeited by
           kindness. It would depend on her age. Supposing her still           my most wilful, my wanton, sin. We have met. It is more
           youngish, there might be captivating passages between them,         than I have merited. We part. In mercy let it be for ever. Oh,
           as thus, in a style not unfamiliar:                                 terrible word! Coined by the passions of our youth, it comes
               “And was it my fault, my poor girl? Am I to blame, that         to us for our sole riches when we are bankrupt of earthly
           you have passed a lonely, unloved youth?”                           treasures, and is the passport given by Abnegation unto Woe
               “No, Willoughby! The irreparable error was mine, the            that prays to quit this probationary sphere. Willoughby, we
           blame is mine, mine only. I live to repent it. I do not seek, for   part. It is better so.”
           I have not deserved, your pardon. Had I it, I should need my            “Clara! one—one only—one last—one holy kiss!”
           own self-esteem to presume to clasp it to a bosom ever un-              “If these poor lips, that once were sweet to you . . .”
           worthy of you.”                                                         The kiss, to continue the language of the imaginative com-
               “I may have been impatient, Clara: we are human!”               position of his time, favourite readings in which had inspired
               “Never be it mine to accuse one on whom I laid so heavy a       Sir Willoughby with a colloquy so pathetic, was imprinted.
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           weight of forbearance!”                                                 Ay, she had the kiss, and no mean one. It was intended to
               “Still, my old love!—for I am merely quoting history in         swallow every vestige of dwindling attractiveness out of her,
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           354                                                                                                                              355

           and there was a bit of scandal springing of it in the back-        she was bold with the gallop. They were not unknown to
           ground that satisfactorily settled her business, and left her      Willoughby. They signified intimacy.
           ‘enshrined in memory, a divine recollection to him,’ as his            Last night he had proposed to De Craye to take Miss
           popular romances would say, and have said for years.               Middleton for a ride the next afternoon. It never came to his
               Unhappily, the fancied salute of her lips encircled him        mind then that he and his friend had formerly been rivals.
           with the breathing Clara. She rushed up from vacancy like a        He wished Clara to be amused. Policy dictated that every
           wind summoned to wreck a stately vessel.                           thread should be used to attach her to her residence at the
               His reverie had thrown him into severe commotion. The          Hall until he could command his temper to talk to her calmly
           slave of a passion thinks in a ring, as hares run: he will cease   and overwhelm her, as any man in earnest, with command of
           where he began. Her sweetness had set him off, and he whirled      temper and a point of vantage, may be sure to whelm a young
           back to her sweetness: and that being incalculable and he          woman. Policy, adulterated by temper, yet policy it was that
           insatiable, you have the picture of his torments when you          had sent him on his errand in the early morning to beat about
           consider that her behaviour made her as a cloud to him             for a house and garden suitable to Dr. Middleton within a
               Riding slack, horse and man, in the likeness of those two      circuit of five, six, or seven miles of Patterne Hall. If the Rev.
           ajog homeward from the miry hunt, the horse pricked his            Doctor liked the house and took it (and Willoughby had seen
           cars, and Willoughby looked down from his road along the           the place to suit him), the neighbourhood would be a chain
           bills on the race headed by young Crossjay with a short start      upon Clara: and if the house did not please a gentleman rather
           over Aspenwell Common to the ford. There was no mistak-            hard to please (except in a venerable wine), an excuse would
           ing who they were, though they were well-nigh a mile distant       have been started for his visiting other houses, and he had
           below. He noticed that they did not overtake the boy. They         that response to his importunate daughter, that he believed
           drew rein at the ford, talking not simply face to face, but face   an excellent house was on view. Dr. Middleton had been pre-
           in face. Willoughby’s novel feeling of he knew not what drew       pared by numerous hints to meet Clara’s black misreading of
           them up to him, enabling him to fancy them bathing in one          a lovers’ quarrel, so that everything looked full of promise as
           another’s eyes. Then she sprang through the ford, De Craye         far as Willoughby’s exercise of policy went.
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           following, but not close after—and why not close? She had              But the strange pang traversing him now convicted him of
           flicked him with one of her peremptorily saucy speeches when       a large adulteration of profitless temper with it. The loyalty
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           356                                                                                                                              357

           of De Craye to a friend, where a woman walked in the drama,            Married women understood him: widows did. He placed
           was notorious. It was there, and a most flexible thing it was:     an exceedingly handsome and flattering young widow of his
           and it soon resembled reason manipulated by the sophists.          acquaintance, Lady Mary Lewison, beside Clara for a com-
           Not to have reckoned on his peculiar loyalty was proof of the      parison, involuntarily; and at once, in a flash, in despite of
           blindness cast on us by temper.                                    him (he would rather it had been otherwise), and in despite
               And De Craye had an Irish tongue; and he had it under          of Lady Mary’s high birth and connections as well, the silver
           control, so that he could talk good sense and airy nonsense at     lustre of the maid sicklied the poor widow.
           discretion. The strongest overboiling of English Puritan con-          The effect of the luckless comparison was to produce an
           tempt of a gabbler, would not stop women from liking it.           image of surpassingness in the features of Clara that gave him
           Evidently Clara did like it, and Willoughby thundered on           the final, or mace-blow. Jealousy invaded him.
           her sex. Unto such brainless things as these do we, under the          He had hitherto been free of it, regarding jealousy as a
           irony of circumstances, confide our honour!                        foreign devil, the accursed familiar of the vulgar. Luckless fel-
               For he was no gabbler. He remembered having rattled in         lows might be victims of the disease; he was not; and neither
           earlier days; he had rattled with an object to gain, desiring to   Captain Oxford, nor Vernon, nor De Craye, nor any of his
           be taken for an easy, careless, vivacious, charming fellow, as     compeers, had given him one shrewd pinch: the woman had,
           any young gentleman may be who gaily wears the golden dish         not the man; and she in quite a different fashion from his
           of Fifty thousand pounds per annum, nailed to the back of          present wallowing anguish: she had never pulled him to earth’s
           his very saintly young pate. The growth of the critical spirit     level, where jealousy gnaws the grasses. He had boasted him-
           in him, however, had informed him that slang had been a            self above the humiliating visitation.
           principal component of his rattling; and as he justly sup-             If that had been the case, we should not have needed to
           posed it a betraying art for his race and for him, he passed       trouble ourselves much about him. A run or two with the
           through the prim and the yawning phases of affected indif-         pack of imps would have satisfied us. But he desired Clara
           ference, to the pine Puritanism of a leaden contempt of            Middleton manfully enough at an intimation of rivalry to be
           gabblers.                                                          jealous; in a minute the foreign devil had him, he was flame:
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               They snare women, you see—girls! How despicable the            flaming verdigris, one might almost dare to say, for an exact
           host of girls!—at least, that girl below there!                    illustration; such was actually the colour; but accept it as un-
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           358                                                                                                                              359

           said.                                                              Clara, hated none, loved none, save the intolerable woman.
               Remember the poets upon jealousy. It is to be haunted in       What logic was in him deduced her to be individual and
           the heaven of two by a Third; preceded or succeeded, there-        most distinctive from the circumstance that only she had ever
           fore surrounded, embraced, bugged by this infernal Third: it       wrought these pangs. She had made him ready for them, as
           is Love’s bed of burning marl; to see and taste the withering      we know. An idea of De Craye being no stranger to her when
           Third in the bosom of sweetness; to be dragged through the         he arrived at the Hall, dashed him at De Craye for a second:
           past and find the fair Eden of it sulphurous; to be dragged to     it might be or might not be that they had a secret;—Clara
           the gates of the future and glory to behold them blood: to         was the spell. So prodigiously did he love and hate, that he
           adore the bitter creature trebly and with treble power to clutch   had no permanent sense except for her. The soul of him
           her by the windpipe: it is to be cheated, derided, shamed, and     writhed under her eyes at one moment, and the next it closed
           abject and supplicating, and consciously demoniacal in treach-     on her without mercy. She was his possession escaping; his
           erousness, and victoriously self-justified in revenge.             own gliding away to the Third.
               And still there is no change in what men feel, though in           There would be pangs for him too, that Third! Standing
           what they do the modern may be judicious.                          at the altar to see her fast-bound, soul and body, to another,
               You know the many paintings of man transformed to              would be good roasting fire.
           rageing beast by the curse: and this, the fieriest trial of our        It would be good roasting fire for her too, should she be
           egoism, worked in the Egoist to produce division of himself        averse. To conceive her aversion was to burn her and devour
           from himself, a concentration of his thoughts upon another         her. She would then be his!—what say you? Burned and de-
           object, still himself, but in another breast, which had to be      voured! Rivals would vanish then. Her reluctance to espouse
           looked at and into for the discovery of him. By the gaping         the man she was plighted to would cease to be uttered, cease
           jaw-chasm of his greed we may gather comprehension of his          to be felt.
           insatiate force of jealousy. Let her go? Not though he were to         At last he believed in her reluctance. All that had been
           become a mark of public scorn in strangling her with the           wanted to bring him to the belief was the scene on the com-
           yoke! His concentration was marvellous. Unused to the exer-        mon; such a mere spark, or an imagined spark! But the pres-
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           cise of imaginative powers, he nevertheless conjured her be-       ence of the Third was necessary; otherwise he would have
           fore him visually till his eyeballs ached. He saw none but         had to suppose himself personally distasteful.
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                Women have us back to the conditions of primitive man,           like men when it is given to them to hunt. At present they fly,
           or they shoot us higher than the topmost star. But it is as we        and there is the difference. Our manner of the chase informs
           please. Let them tell us what we are to them: for us, they are        them of the creature we are.
           our back and front of life: the poet’s Lesbia, the poet’s Beatrice;       Dimly as young women are informed, they have a youth-
           ours is the choice. And were it proved that some of the bright        ful ardour of detestation that renders them less tolerant of
           things are in the pay of Darkness, with the stamp of his coin         the Egoist than their perceptive elder sisters. What they do
           on their palms, and that some are the very angels we hear             perceive, however, they have a redoubtable grasp of, and Clara’s
           sung of, not the less might we say that they find us out; they        behaviour would be indefensible if her detective feminine vi-
           have us by our leanings. They are to us what we hold of best          sion might not sanction her acting on its direction. Seeing
           or worst within. By their state is our civilization judged: and       him as she did, she turned from him and shunned his house
           if it is hugely animal still, that is because primitive men abound    as the antre of an ogre. She had posted her letter to Lucy
           and will have their pasture. Since the lead is ours, the leaders      Darleton. Otherwise, if it had been open to her to dismiss
           must bow their heads to the sentence. Jealousy of a woman is          Colonel De Craye, she might, with a warm kiss to Vernon’s
           the primitive egoism seeking to refine in a blood gone to sav-        pupil, have seriously thought of the next shrill steam-whistle
           agery under apprehension of an invasion of rights; it is in           across yonder hills for a travelling companion on the way to
           action the tiger threatened by a rifle when his paw is rigid on       her friend Lucy; so abhorrent was to her the putting of her
           quick flesh; he tears the flesh for rage at the intruder. The         horse’s head toward the Hall. Oh, the breaking of bread there!
           Egoist, who is our original male in giant form, had no bleed-         It had to be gone through for another day and more; that is
           ing victim beneath his paw, but there was the sex to mangle.          to say, forty hours, it might be six-and-forty hours; and no
           Much as he prefers the well-behaved among women, who can              prospect of sleep to speed any of them on wings!
           worship and fawn, and in whom terror can be inspired, in his              Such were Clara’s inward interjections while poor
           wrath he would make of Beatrice a Lesbia Quadrantaria.                Willoughby burned himself out with verdigris flame having
                Let women tell us of their side of the battle. We are not so     the savour of bad metal, till the hollow of his breast was not
           much the test of the Egoist in them as they to us. Movements          unlike to a corroded old cuirass, found, we will assume, by
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           of similarity shown in crowned and undiademed ladies of in-           criminal lantern-beams in a digging beside green-mantled
           trepid independence, suggest their occasional capacity to be          pools of the sullen soil, lumped with a strange adhesive con-
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           362                                                                                                                                363

           crete. How else picture the sad man?—the cavity felt empty               “You have had your ride?” he addressed her politely in the
           to him, and heavy; sick of an ancient and mortal combat, and         general assembly on the lawn.
           burning; deeply dinted too:                                              “I have had my ride, yes,” Clara replied.
                 With the starry hole Whence fled the soul:                         “Agreeable, I trust?”
               very sore; important for aught save sluggish agony; a speci-         “Very agreeable.”
           men and the issue of strife.                                             So it appeared. Oh, blushless!
               Measurelessly to loathe was not sufficient to save him from          The next instant he was in conversation with Laetitia,
           pain: he tried it: nor to despise; he went to a depth there also.    questioning her upon a dejected droop of her eyelashes.
           The fact that she was a healthy young woman returned to the              “I am, I think,” said she, “constitutionally melancholy.”
           surface of his thoughts like the murdered body pitched into              He murmured to her: “I believe in the existence of specif-
           the river, which will not drown, and calls upon the elements         ics, and not far to seek, for all our ailments except those we
           of dissolution to float it. His grand hereditary desire to trans-    bear at the hands of others.”
           mit his estates, wealth and name to a solid posterity, while it          She did not dissent.
           prompted him in his loathing and contempt of a nature mean               De Craye, whose humour for being convinced that
           and ephemeral compared with his, attached him desperately            Willoughby cared about as little for Miss Middleton as she
           to her splendid healthiness. The council of elders, whose de-        for him was nourished by his immediate observation of them,
           scendant he was, pointed to this young woman for his mate.           dilated on the beauty of the ride and his fair companion’s
           He had wooed her with the idea that they consented. O she            equestrian skill.
           was healthy! And he likewise: but, as if it had been a duel              “You should start a travelling circus,” Willoughby rejoined.
           between two clearly designated by quality of blood to bid a          “But the idea’s a worthy one!—There’s another alternative to
           House endure, she was the first who taught him what it was           the expedition I proposed, Miss Middleton,” said De Craye.
           to have sensations of his mortality.                                 “And I be clown? I haven’t a scruple of objection. I must read
               He could not forgive her. It seemed to him consequently          up books of jokes.”
           politic to continue frigid and let her have a further taste of his       “Don’t,” said Willoughby.
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           shadow, when it was his burning wish to strain her in his arms           “I’d spoil my part! But a natural clown won’t keep up an
           to a flatness provoking his compassion.                              artificial performance for an entire month, you see; which is
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           364                                                                                                                                 365

           the length of time we propose. He’ll exhaust his nature in a
           day and be bowled over by the dullest regular donkey-engine
           with paint on his cheeks and a nodding topknot.”
               “What is this expedition ‘we’ propose?”
               De Craye was advised in his heart to spare Miss Middleton
           any allusion to honeymoons.
               “Merely a game to cure dulness.”
               “Ah!” Willoughby acquiesced. “A month, you said?”
               “One’d like it to last for years.”
               “Ah! You are driving one of Mr. Merriman’s witticisms at
           me, Horace; I am dense.”                                                                 Chapter 24.
               Willoughby bowed to Dr. Middleton, and drew him from                    Contains an instance of the generosity of Willoughby.
           Vernon, filially taking his turn to talk with him closely.
               De Craye saw Clara’s look as her father and Willoughby             Observers of a gathering complication and a character in
           went aside thus linked.                                            action commonly resemble gleaners who are intent only on
               It lifted him over anxieties and casuistries concerning loy-   picking up the cars of grain and huddling their store. Disin-
           alty. Powder was in the look to make a warhorse breathe high       terestedly or interestedly they wax over-eager for the little
           and shiver for the signal.                                         trifles, and make too much of them. Observers should begin
                                                                              upon the precept, that not all we see is worth hoarding, and
                                                                              that the things we see are to be weighed in the scale with
                                                                              what we know of the situation, before we commit ourselves to
                                                                              a measurement. And they may be accurate observers without
                                                                              being good judges. They do not think so, and their bent is to
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                                                                              glean hurriedly and form conclusions as hasty, when their
                                                                              business should be sift at each step, and question.
                                                                                  Miss Dale seconded Vernon Whitford in the occupation
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           366                                                                                                                             367

           of counting looks and tones, and noting scraps of dialogue.       a yes—in the case of poor Flitch; and Clara’s, “Willoughby
           She was quite disinterested; he quite believed that he was; to    will not forgive”; and De Craye’s “Oh, he’s human”: and the
           this degree they were competent for their post; and neither of    silence of Clara and De Craye’s hearty cry, “Flitch shall be a
           them imagined they could be personally involved in the du-        gentleman’s coachman in his old seat or I haven’t a tongue!” to
           bious result of the scenes they witnessed. They were but anx-     which there was a negative of Clara’s head: and it then struck
           ious observers, diligently collecting. She fancied Clara sus-     Laetitia that this young betrothed lady, whose alienated heart
           ceptible to his advice: he had fancied it, and was considering    acknowledged no lord an hour earlier, had met her match,
           it one of his vanities. Each mentally compared Clara’s abrupt-    and, as the observer would have said, her destiny. She judged
           ness in taking them into her confidence with her abstention       of the alarming possibility by the recent revelation to herself
           from any secret word since the arrival of Colonel De Craye.       of Miss Middleton’s character, and by Clara’s having spoken
           Sir Willoughby requested Laetitia to give Miss Middleton as       to a man as well (to Vernon), and previously. That a young
           much of her company as she could; showing that he was on          lady should speak on the subject of the inner holies to a man,
           the alert. Another Constantia Durham seemed beating her           though he were Vernon Whitford, was incredible to Laetitia;
           wings for flight. The suddenness of the evident intimacy be-      but it had to be accepted as one of the dread facts of our
           tween Clara and Colonel De Craye shocked Laetitia; their          inexplicable life, which drag our bodies at their wheels and
           acquaintance could be computed by hours. Yet at their first       leave our minds exclaiming. Then, if Clara could speak to
           interview she had suspected the possibility of worse than she     Vernon, which Laetitia would not have done for a mighty
           now supposed to be; and she had begged Vernon not imme-           bribe, she could speak to De Craye, Laetitia thought deduc-
           diately to quit the Hall, in consequence of that faint suspi-     tively: this being the logic of untrained heads opposed to the
           cion. She had been led to it by meeting Clara and De Craye        proceeding whereby their condemnatory deduction hangs.—
           at her cottage-gate, and finding them as fluent and laughter-     Clara must have spoken to De Craye!
           breathing in conversation as friends. Unable to realize the           Laetitia remembered how winning and prevailing Miss
           rapid advance to a familiarity, more ostensible than actual, of   Middleton could be in her confidences. A gentleman hearing
           two lively natures, after such an introduction as they had un-    her might forget his duty to his friend, she thought, for she
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           dergone: and one of the two pining in a drought of liveliness:    had been strangely swayed by Clara: ideas of Sir Willoughby
           Laetitia listened to their wager of nothing at all—a no against   that she had never before imagined herself to entertain had
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           368                                                                                                                              369

           been sown in her, she thought; not asking herself whether the      trayed her position to De Craye, which Vernon assumed that
           searchingness of the young lady had struck them and bidden         she had done. Of course he did. She had been guilty of it
           them rise from where they lay imbedded. Very gentle women          once: why, then, in the mind of an offended friend, she would
           take in that manner impressions of persons, especially of the      be guilty of it twice. There was evidence. Ladies, fatally pre-
           worshipped person, wounding them; like the new fortifica-          destined to appeal to that from which they have to be guarded,
           tions with embankments of soft earth, where explosive mis-         must expect severity when they run off their railed highroad:
           siles bury themselves harmlessly until they are plucked out;       justice is out of the question: man’s brains might, his blood
           and it may be a reason why those injured ladies outlive a          cannot administer it to them. By chilling him to the bone
           Clara Middleton similarly battered.                                they may get what they cry for. But that is a method deaden-
               Vernon less than Laetitia took into account that Clara was     ing to their point of appeal.
           in a state of fever, scarcely reasonable. Her confidences to him       I the evening, Miss Middleton and the colonel sang a duet.
           he had excused, as a piece of conduct, in sympathy with her        She had of late declined to sing. Her voice was noticeably
           position. He had not been greatly astonished by the circum-        firm. Sir Willoughby said to her, “You have recovered your
           stances confided; and, on the whole, as she was excited and        richness of tone, Clara.” She smiled and appeared happy in
           unhappy, he excused her thoroughly; he could have extolled         pleasing him. He named a French ballad. She went to the
           her: it was natural that she should come to him, brave in her      music-rack and gave the song unasked. He should have been
           to speak so frankly, a compliment that she should condescend       satisfied, for she said to him at the finish, “Is that as you like
           to treat him as a friend. Her position excused her widely. But     it?” He broke from a murmur to Miss Dale, “Admirable.”
           she was not excused for making a confidential friend of De         Some one mentioned a Tuscan popular canzone. She waited
           Craye. There was a difference.                                     for Willoughby’s approval, and took his nod for a mandate.
               Well, the difference was, that De Craye had not the smart-         Traitress! he could have bellowed.
           ing sense of honour with women which our meditator had:                He had read of this characteristic of caressing obedience
           an impartial judiciary, it will be seen: and he discriminated      of the women about to deceive. He had in his time profited
           between himself and the other justly: but sensation surging        by it.
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           to his brain at the same instant, he reproached Miss Middleton         “Is it intuitively or by their experience that our neighbours
           for not perceiving that difference as clearly, before she be-      across Channel surpass us in the knowledge of your sex?” he
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           370                                                                                                                               371

           said to Miss Dale, and talked through Clara’s apostrophe to         walked off to his room, dark as one smitten blind: bile tumet
           the ‘Santissinia Virgine Maria,’ still treating temper as a part    jecur: her stroke of neglect hit him there where a blow sends
           of policy, without any effect on Clara; and that was matter         thick obscuration upon eyeballs and brain alike.
           for sickly green reflections. The lover who cannot wound has            Clara saw that she was paining him and regretted it when
           indeed lost anchorage; he is woefully adrift: he stabs air, which   they were separated. That was her real friend! But he pre-
           is to stab himself. Her complacent proof-armour bids him            scribed too hard a task. Besides, she had done everything he
           know himself supplanted.                                            demanded of her, except the consenting to stay where she was
               During the short conversational period before the ladies        and wear out Willoughby, whose dexterity wearied her small
           retired for the night, Miss Eleanor alluded to the wedding by       stock of patience. She had vainly tried remonstrance and sup-
           chance. Miss Isabel replied to her, and addressed an interro-       plication with her father hoodwinked by his host, she refused
           gation to Clara. De Craye foiled it adroitly. Clara did not         to consider how; through wine?—the thought was repulsive.
           utter a syllable. Her bosom lifted to a wavering height and             Nevertheless, she was drawn to the edge of it by the con-
           sank. Subsequently she looked at De Craye vacantly, like a          templation of her scheme of release. If Lucy Darleton was at
           person awakened, but she looked. She was astonished by his          home; if Lucy invited her to come: if she flew to Lucy: oh!
           readiness, and thankful for the succour. Her look was cold,         then her father would have cause for anger. He would not
           wide, unfixed, with nothing of gratitude or of personal in it.      remember that but for hateful wine! . . .
           The look, however, stood too long for Willoughby’s endur-               What was there in this wine of great age which expelled
           ance.                                                               reasonableness, fatherliness? He was her dear father: she was
               Ejaculating “Porcelain!” he uncrossed his legs; a signal for    his beloved child: yet something divided them; something
           the ladies Eleanor and Isabel to retire. Vernon bowed to Clara      closed her father’s ears to her: and could it be that incompre-
           as she was rising. He had not been once in her eyes, and he         hensible seduction of the wine? Her dutifulness cried vio-
           expected a partial recognition at the good-night. She said it,      lently no. She bowed, stupefied, to his arguments for remain-
           turning her head to Miss Isabel, who was condoling once more        ing awhile, and rose clear-headed and rebellious with the remi-
           with Colonel De Craye over the ruins of his wedding-present,        niscence of the many strong reasons she had urged against
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           the porcelain vase, which she supposed to have been in              them.
           Willoughby’s mind when he displayed the signal. Vernon                  The strangeness of men, young and old, the little things
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           372                                                                                                                                373

           (she regarded a grand wine as a little thing) twisting and chang-    she luxuriated in young Crossjay’s boy’s voice, again envying
           ing them, amazed her. And these are they by whom women               him his bath in the lake waters, which seemed to her to have
           are abused for variability! Only the most imperious reasons,         the power to wash away grief and chains. Then it was that she
           never mean trifles, move women, thought she. Would women             resolved to let Crossjay see the last of her in this place. He
           do an injury to one they loved for oceans of that—ah, pah!           should be made gleeful by doing her a piece of service; he
               And women must respect men. They necessarily respect a           should escort her on her walk to the railway station next morn-
           father. “My dear, dear father!” Clara said in the solitude of her    ing, thence be sent flying for a long day’s truancy, with a little
           chamber, musing on all his goodness, and she endeavoured to          note of apology on his behalf that she would write for him to
           reconcile the desperate sentiments of the position he forced         deliver to Vernon at night.
           her to sustain, with those of a venerating daughter. The blow           Crossjay came running to her after his breakfast with Mrs
           which was to fall on him beat on her heavily in advance. “I          Montague, the housekeeper, to tell her he had called her up.
           have not one excuse!” she said, glancing at numbers and a               “You won’t to-morrow: I shall be up far ahead of you,”
           mighty one. But the idea of her father suffering at her hands        said she; and musing on her father, while Crossjay vowed to
           cast her down lower than self-justification. She sought to           be up the first, she thought it her duty to plunge into another
           imagine herself sparing him. It was too fictitious.                  expostulation.
               The sanctuary of her chamber, the pure white room so                Willoughby had need of Vernon on private affairs. Dr.
           homely to her maidenly feelings, whispered peace, only to            Middleton betook himself as usual to the library, after an-
           follow the whisper with another that went through her swell-         swering “I will ruin you yet,” to Willoughby’s liberal offer to
           ing to a roar, and leaving her as a suing of music unkindly          despatch an order to London for any books he might want.
           smitten. If she stayed in this house her chamber would no               His fine unruffled air, as of a mountain in still morning
           longer be a sanctuary. Dolorous bondage! Insolent death is           beams, made Clara not indisposed to a preliminary scene with
           not worse. Death’s worm we cannot keep away, but when he             Willoughby that might save her from distressing him, but
           has us we are numb to dishonour, happily senseless.                  she could not stop Willoughby; as little could she look an
               Youth weighed her eyelids to sleep, though she was quiv-         invitation. He stood in the Hall, holding Vernon by the arm.
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           ering, and quivering she awoke to the sound of her name be-          She passed him; he did not speak, and she entered the library.
           neath her window. “I can love still, for I love him,” she said, as      “What now, my dear? what is it?” said Dr. Middleton,
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           374                                                                                                                              375

           seeing that the door was shut on them.                             the living in hotels is known. I do not hesitate to say that I do
               “Nothing, papa,” she replied, calmly.                          cordially abhor it. I have had penitentially to submit to it in
               “You’ve not locked the door, my child? You turned some-        your dear mother’s time, [Greek], up to the full ten thousand
           thing there: try the handle.”                                      times. But will you not comprehend that to the older man his
               “I assure you, papa, the door is not locked.”                  miseries are multiplied by his years? But is it utterly useless
               “Mr. Whitford will be here instantly. We are engaged on        to solicit your sympathy with an old man, Clara?”
           tough matter. Women have not, and opinion is universal that            “General Darleton will take us in, papa.”
           they never will have, a conception of the value of time.”              “His table is detestable. I say nothing of that; but his wine
               “We are vain and shallow, my dear papa.”                       is poison. Let that pass—I should rather say, let it not pass!—
               “No, no, not you, Clara. But I suspect you to require to       but our political views are not in accord. True, we are not
           learn by having work in progress how important is . . . is a       under the obligation to propound them in presence, but we
           quiet commencement of the day’s task. There is not a scholar       are destitute of an opinion in common. We have no discourse.
           who will not tell you so. We must have a retreat. These inva-      Military men have produced, or diverged in, noteworthy epi-
           sions!—So you intend to have another ride to-day? They do          cures; they are often devout; they have blossomed in lettered
           you good. To-morrow we dine with Mrs. Mountstuart                  men: they are gentlemen; the country rightly holds them in
           Jenkinson, an estimable person indeed, though I do not per-        honour; but, in fine, I reject the proposal to go to General
           fectly understand our accepting.—You have not to accuse me         Darleton.—Tears?”
           of sitting over wine last night, my Clara! I never do it, unless       “No, papa.”
           I am appealed to for my judgement upon a wine.”                        “I do hope not. Here we have everything man can desire;
               “I have come to entreat you to take me away, papa.”            without contest, an excellent host. You have your transitory
               In the midst of the storm aroused by this renewal of per-      tea-cup tempests, which you magnify to hurricanes, in the
           plexity, Dr Middleton replaced a book his elbow had knocked        approved historic manner of the book of Cupid. And all the
           over in his haste to dash the hair off his forehead, crying:       better; I repeat, it is the better that you should have them
           “Whither? To what spot? That reading of guide-books, and           over in the infancy of the alliance. Come in!” Dr. Middleton
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           idle people’s notes of Travel, and picturesque correspondence      shouted cheerily in response to a knock at the door.
           in the newspapers, unsettles man and maid. My objection to             He feared the door was locked: he had a fear that his daugh-
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           376                                                                                                                             377

           ter intended to keep it locked.                                       “—And in saying your happiness, dear Clara, we have our
               “Clara!” he cried.                                            Willoughby’s in view, which is dependent on yours.”
               She reluctantly turned the handle, and the ladies Eleanor         “—And we never could sanction that our own inclinations
           and Isabel came in, apologizing with as much coherence as         should stand in the way.”
           Dr. Middleton ever expected from their sex. They wished to            “—No. We love the old place; and if it were only our pun-
           speak to Clara, but they declined to take her away. In vain the   ishment for loving it too idolatrously, we should deem it
           Rev. Doctor assured them she was at their service; they pro-      ground enough for our departure.”
           tested that they had very few words to say, and would not             “—Without, really, an idea of unkindness; none, not any.”
           intrude one moment further than to speak them.                        “—Young wives naturally prefer to be undisputed queens
               Like a shy deputation of young scholars before the master,    of their own establishment.”
           these very words to come were preceded by none at all; a              “—Youth and age!”
           dismal and trying cause; refreshing however to Dr. Middleton,         “But I,” said Clara, “have never mentioned, never had a
           who joyfully anticipated that the ladies could be induced to      thought . . .”
           take away Clara when they had finished.                               “—You have, dear child, a lover who in his solicitude for
               “We may appear to you a little formal,” Miss Isabel be-       your happiness both sees what you desire and what is due to
           gan, and turned to her sister.                                    you.”
               “We have no intention to lay undue weight on our mis-             “—And for us, Clara, to recognize what is due to you is to
           sion, if mission it can be called,” said Miss Eleanor.            act on it.”
               “Is it entrusted to you by Willoughby?” said Clara.               “—Besides, dear, a sea-side cottage has always been one of
               “Dear child, that you may know it all the more earnest        our dreams.”
           with us, and our personal desire to contribute to your happi-         “—We have not to learn that we are a couple of old maids,
           ness: therefore does Willoughby entrust the speaking of it to     incongruous associates for a young wife in the government of
           us.”                                                              a great house.”
               Hereupon the sisters alternated in addressing Clara, and          “—With our antiquated notions, questions of domestic
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           she gazed from one to the other, piecing fragments of empty       management might arise, and with the best will in the world
           signification to get the full meaning when she might.             to be harmonious!”
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               “—So, dear Clara, consider it settled.”                           “Did he speak of it first this morning?” said Clara; but she
               “—From time to time gladly shall we be your guests.”          could draw no reply to that from them. They resumed the
               “—Your guests, dear, not censorious critics.”                 duet, and she resigned herself to have her cars boxed with
               “And you think me such an Egoist!—dear ladies! The sug-       nonsense.
           gestion of so cruel a piece of selfishness wounds me. I would         “So, it is understood?” said Miss Eleanor.
           not have had you leave the Hall. I like your society; I respect       “I see your kindness, ladies.”
           you. My complaint, if I had one, would be, that you do not            “And I am to be Aunt Eleanor again?”
           sufficiently assert yourselves. I could have wished you to be         “And I Aunt Isabel?”
           here for an example to me. I would not have allowed you to            Clara could have wrung her hands at the impediment
           go. What can he think of me! Did Willoughby speak of it           which prohibited her delicacy from telling them why she could
           this morning?”                                                    not name them so as she had done in the earlier days of
               It was hard to distinguish which was the completer dupe       Willoughby’s courtship. She kissed them warmly, ashamed
           of these two echoes of one another in worship of a family         of kissing, though the warmth was real.
           idol.                                                                 They retired with a flow of excuses to Dr. Middleton for
               “Willoughby,” Miss Eleanor presented herself to be            disturbing him. He stood at the door to bow them out, and
           stamped with the title hanging ready for the first that should    holding the door for Clara, to wind up the procession, discov-
           open her lips, “our Willoughby is observant—he is ever gen-       ered her at a far corner of the room.
           erous—and he is not less forethoughtful. His arrangement is           He was debating upon the advisability of leaving her there,
           for our good on all sides.”                                       when Vernon Whitford crossed the hall from the laboratory
               “An index is enough,” said Miss Isabel, appearing in her      door, a mirror of himself in his companion air of discompo-
           turn the monster dupe.                                            sure.
               “You will not have to leave, dear ladies. Were I mistress         That was not important, so long as Vernon was a check on
           here I should oppose it.”                                         Clara; but the moment Clara, thus baffled, moved to quit the
               “Willoughby blames himself for not reassuring you be-         library, Dr. Middleton felt the horror of having an uncom-
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           fore.”                                                            fortable face opposite.
               “Indeed we blame ourselves for not undertaking to go.”            “No botheration, I hope? It’s the worst thing possible to
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           380                                                                                                                                381

           work on. Where have you been? I suspect your weak point is           she had better at once, having him present to support her,
           not to arm yourself in triple brass against bother and worry,        pour out her whole heart to her father. But how was it to be
           and no good work can you do unless you do. You have come             conveyed? She would not meet his eyes, and he was too poor
           out of that laboratory.”                                             an intriguer to be ready on the instant to deal out the verbal
               “I have, sir.—Can I get you any book?” Vernon said to            obscurities which are transparencies to one.
           Clara.                                                                  “I shall regret it, if Willoughby has annoyed you, for he
               She thanked him, promising to depart immediately.                stands high in my favour,” said Dr. Middleton.
               “Now you are at the section of Italian literature, my love,”        Clara dropped a book. Her father started higher than the
           said Dr Middleton. “Well, Mr. Whitford, the laboratory—              nervous impulse warranted in his chair. Vernon tried to win a
           ah!—where the amount of labour done within the space of a            glance, and she was conscious of his effort, but her angry and
           year would not stretch an electric current between this Hall         guilty feelings, prompting her resolution to follow her own
           and the railway station: say, four miles, which I presume the        counsel, kept her eyelids on the defensive.
           distance to be. Well, sir, and a dilettantism costly in time and        “I don’t say he annoys me, sir. I am here to give him my
           machinery is as ornamental as foxes’ tails and deers’ horns to       advice, and if he does not accept it I have no right to be an-
           an independent gentleman whose fellows are contented with            noyed. Willoughby seems annoyed that Colonel De Craye
           the latter decorations for their civic wreath. Willoughby, let       should talk of going to-morrow or next day.”
           me remark, has recently shown himself most considerate for              “He likes his friends about him. Upon my word, a man of
           my girl. As far as I could gather—I have been listening to a         a more genial heart you might march a day without finding.
           dialogue of ladies—he is as generous as he is discreet. There        But you have it on the forehead, Mr. Whitford.”
           are certain combats in which to be the one to succumb is to             “Oh! no, sir.”
           claim the honours;—and that is what women will not learn. I             “There,” Dr. Middleton drew his finger along his brows.
           doubt their seeing the glory of it.”                                    Vernon felt along his own, and coined an excuse for their
               “I have heard of it; I have been with Willoughby,” Vernon        blackness; not aware that the direction of his mind toward
           said, hastily, to shield Clara from her father’s allusive attacks.   Clara pushed him to a kind of clumsy double meaning, while
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           He wished to convey to her that his interview with                   he satisfied an inward and craving wrath, as he said: “By the
           Willoughby had not been profitable in her interests, and that        way, I have been racking my head; I must apply to you, sir. I
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           382                                                                                                                             383

           have a line, and I am uncertain of the run of the line. Will      honourable clearness on Vernon’s brows.
           this pass, do you think?                                             “I trust not, sir; it’s a case for common sense.”
                  ‘In Asination’s tongue he asinates’;                          “And you call that not serious?”
               signifying that he excels any man of us at donkey-dia-           “I take Hermann’s praise of the versus dochmiachus to be
           lect.”                                                            not only serious but unexaggerated,” said Vernon.
               After a decent interval for the genius of criticism to seem      Dr. Middleton assented and entered on the voiceful ground
           to have been sitting under his frown, Dr. Middleton rejoined      of Greek metres, shoving your dry dusty world from his el-
           with sober jocularity: “No, sir, it will not pass; and your un-   bow.
           certainty in regard to the run of the line would only be ex-
           tended were the line centipedal. Our recommendation is, that
           you erase it before the arrival of the ferule. This might do:
                  ‘In Assignation’s name he assignats’;
               signifying that he pre-eminently flourishes hypothetical
           promises, to pay by appointment. That might pass. But you
           will forbear to cite me for your authority.”
               “The line would be acceptable if I could get it to apply,”
           said Vernon.
               “Or this . . .” Dr. Middleton was offering a second sugges-
           tion, but Clara fled, astonished at men as she never yet had
           been. Why, in a burning world they would be exercising their
           minds in absurdities! And those two were scholars, learned
           men! And both knew they were in the presence of a soul in a
           tragic fever!
               A minute after she had closed the door they were deep in
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           their work. Dr. Middleton forgot his alternative line.
               “Nothing serious?” he said in reproof of the want of
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           384                                                                                                                                385

                                                                                sure was put on her to engage herself, and she did so liberally,
                                                                                throwing the burden of deceitfulness on the extraordinary
                                                                                pressure. “I want the early part of the morning; the rest of the
                                                                                day I shall be at liberty.” She said it to Willoughby, Miss
                                                                                Dale, Colonel De Craye, and only the third time was she
                                                                                aware of the delicious double meaning. Hence she associated
                                                                                it with the colonel.
                                                                                    Your loudest outcry against the wretch who breaks your
                                                                                rules is in asking how a tolerably conscientious person could
                                                                                have done this and the other besides the main offence, which
                               Chapter 25.                                      you vow you could overlook but for the minor objections per-
                                The flight in wild weather.                     taining to conscience, the incomprehensible and abominable
                                                                                lies, for example, or the brazen coolness of the lying. Yet you
              The morning of Lucy Darleton’s letter of reply to her friend      know that we live in an undisciplined world, where in our
           Clara was fair before sunrise, with luminous colours that are        seasons of activity we are servants of our design, and that this
           an omen to the husbandman. Clara had no weather-eye for              comes of our passions, and those of our position. Our design
           the rich Eastern crimson, nor a quiet space within her for the       shapes us for the work in hand, the passions man the ship, the
           beauty. She looked on it as her gate of promise, and it set her      position is their apology: and now should conscience be a
           throbbing with a revived belief in radiant things which she          passenger on board, a merely seeming swiftness of our vessel
           had once dreamed of to surround her life, but her accelerated        will keep him dumb as the unwilling guest of a pirate captain
           pulses narrowed her thoughts upon the machinery of her               scudding from the cruiser half in cloven brine through rocks
           project. She herself was metal, pointing all to her one aim          and shoals to save his black flag. Beware the false position.
           when in motion. Nothing came amiss to it, everything was                 That is easy to say: sometimes the tangle descends on us
                                                                                like a net of blight on a rose-bush. There is then an instant
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           fuel; fibs, evasions, the serene battalions of white lies parallel
           on the march with dainty rogue falsehoods. She had delivered         choice for us between courage to cut loose, and desperation if
           herself of many yesterday in her engagements for to-day. Pres-       we do not. But not many men are trained to courage; young
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           386                                                                                                                               387

           women are trained to cowardice. For them to front an evil           the library.
           with plain speech is to be guilty of effrontery and forfeit the         She gave herself a chiding for thinking of him when her
           waxen polish of purity, and therewith their commanding place        mind should be intent on that which he was opposed to.
           in the market. They are trained to please man’s taste, for which        It was a livelier relaxation to think of young Crossjay’s
           purpose they soon learn to live out of themselves, and look on      shame-faced confession presently, that he had been a laggard
           themselves as he looks, almost as little disturbed as he by the     in bed while she swept the dews. She laughed at him, and
           undiscovered. Without courage, conscience is a sorry guest;         immediately Crossjay popped out on her from behind a tree,
           and if all goes well with the pirate captain, conscience will be    causing her to clap hand to heart and stand fast. A conspira-
           made to walk the plank for being of no service to either party.     tor is not of the stuff to bear surprises. He feared he had hurt
               Clara’s fibs and evasions disturbed her not in the least that   her, and was manly in his efforts to soothe: he had been up
           morning. She had chosen desperation, and she thought her-           “hours”, he said, and had watched her coming along the av-
           self very brave because she was just brave enough to fly from       enue, and did not mean to startle her: it was the kind of fun
           her abhorrence. She was light-hearted, or, more truly, drunken-     he played with fellows, and if he had hurt her, she might do
           hearted. Her quick nature realized the out of prison as vividly     anything to him she liked, and she would see if he could not
           and suddenly as it had sunk suddenly and leadenly under the         stand to be punished. He was urgent with her to inflict cor-
           sense of imprisonment. Vernon crossed her mind: that was a          poral punishment on him.
           friend! Yes, and there was a guide; but he would disapprove,            “I shall leave it to the boatswain to do that when you’re in
           and even he, thwarting her way to sacred liberty, must be           the navy,” said Clara.
           thrust aside.                                                           “The boatswain daren’t strike an officer! so now you see
               What would he think? They might never meet, for her to          what you know of the navy,” said Crossjay.
           know. Or one day in the Alps they might meet, a middle-                 “But you could not have been out before me, you naughty
           aged couple, he famous, she regretful only to have fallen be-       boy, for I found all the locks and bolts when I went to the
           low his lofty standard. “For, Mr. Whitford,” says she, very         door.”
           earnestly, “I did wish at that time, believe me or not, to merit        “But you didn’t go to the back door, and Sir Willoughby’s
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           your approbation.” The brows of the phantom Vernon whom             private door: you came out by the hall door; and I know what
           she conjured up were stern, as she had seen them yesterday in       you want, Miss Middleton, you want not to pay what you’ve
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           388                                                                                                                              389

           lost.”                                                                 “I certainly shall, Crossjay.”
               “What have I lost, Crossjay?”                                      “No, you won’t, because I’m so fond of your name!”
               “Your wager.”                                                      She considered, and said: “You have warned me, Crossjay,
               “What was that?”                                               and I shall not marry. I shall wait,” she was going to say, “for
               “You know.”                                                    you,” but turned the hesitation to a period. “Is the village
               “Speak.”                                                       where I posted my letter the day before yesterday too far for
               “A kiss.”                                                      you?”
               “Nothing of the sort. But, dear boy, I don’t love you less         Crossjay howled in contempt. “Next to Clara, my favourite’s
           for not kissing you. All that is nonsense: you have to think       Lucy,” he said.
           only of learning, and to be truthful. Never tell a story: suffer       “I thought Clara came next to Nelson,” said she; “and a
           anything rather than be dishonest.” She was particularly im-       long way off too, if you’re not going to be a landlubber.”
           pressive upon the silliness and wickedness of falsehood, and           “I’m not going to be a landlubber. Miss Middleton, you
           added: “Do you hear?”                                              may be absolutely positive on your solemn word.”
               “Yes: but you kissed me when I had been out in the rain            “You’re getting to talk like one a little now and then,
           that day.”                                                         Crossjay.”
               “Because I promised.”                                              “Then I won’t talk at all.”
               “And, Miss Middleton, you betted a kiss yesterday.”                He stuck to his resolution for one whole minute.
               “I am sure, Crossjay—no, I will not say I am sure: but can         Clara hoped that on this morning of a doubtful though
           you say you are sure you were out first this morning? Well,        imperative venture she had done some good.
           will you say you are sure that when you left the house you did         They walked fast to cover the distance to the village post-
           not see me in the avenue? You can’t: ah!”                          office, and back before the breakfast hour: and they had plenty
               “Miss Middleton, I do really believe I was dressed first.”     of time, arriving too early for the opening of the door, so that
               “Always be truthful, my dear boy, and then you may feel        Crossjay began to dance with an appetite, and was despatched
           that Clara Middleton will always love you.”                        to besiege a bakery. Clara felt lonely without him: apprehen-
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               “But, Miss Middleton, when you’re married you won’t be         sively timid in the shuttered, unmoving village street. She was
           Clara Middleton.”                                                  glad of his return. When at last her letter was handed to her,
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           390                                                                                                                              391

           on the testimony of the postman that she was the lawful ap-        plumage of the Himalaya—the beautiful Indian bird; and if
           plicant, Crossjay and she put out on a sharp trot to be back at    we’re found together, we run a race, and of course you can
           the Hall in good time. She took a swallowing glance of the         catch me, but you mustn’t until we’re out of sight. Tell Mr.
           first page of Lucy’s writing:                                      Vernon at night—tell Mr. Whitford at night you had the
               “Telegraph, and I will meet you. I will supply you with        money from me as part of my allowance to you for pocket-
           everything you can want for the two nights, if you cannot          money. I used to like to have pocket-money, Crossjay. And
           stop longer.”                                                      you may tell him I gave you the holiday, and I may write to
               That was the gist of the letter. A second, less voracious,     him for his excuse, if he is not too harsh to grant it. He can be
           glance at it along the road brought sweetness:—Lucy wrote:         very harsh.”
               “Do I love you as I did? my best friend, you must fall into        “You look right into his eyes next time, Miss Middleton. I
           unhappiness to have the answer to that.”                           used to think him awful till he made me look at him. He says
               Clara broke a silence.                                         men ought to look straight at one another, just as we do when
               “Yes, dear Crossjay, and if you like you shall have another    he gives me my boxing-lesson, and then we won’t have quar-
           walk with me after breakfast. But, remember, you must not          relling half so much. I can’t recollect everything he says.”
           say where you have gone with me. I shall give you twenty               “You are not bound to, Crossjay.”
           shillings to go and buy those bird’s eggs and the butterflies          “No, but you like to hear.”
           you want for your collection; and mind, promise me, to-day             “Really, dear boy. I can’t accuse myself of having told you
           is your last day of truancy. Tell Mr. Whitford how ungrateful      that.”
           you know you have been, that he may have some hope of you.             “No, but, Miss Middleton, you do. And he’s fond of your
           You know the way across the fields to the railway station?”        singing and playing on the piano, and watches you.”
               “You save a mile; you drop on the road by Combline’s               “We shall be late if we don’t mind,” said Clara, starting to
           mill, and then there’s another five-minutes’ cut, and the rest’s   a pace close on a run.
           road.”                                                                 They were in time for a circuit in the park to the wild
               “Then, Crossjay, immediately after breakfast run round         double cherry-blossom, no longer all white. Clara gazed up
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           behind the pheasantry, and there I’ll find you. And if any         from under it, where she had imagined a fairer visible heaven-
           one comes to you before I come, say you are admiring the           liness than any other sight of earth had ever given her. That
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           392                                                                                                                              393

           was when Vernon lay beneath. But she had certainly looked          the senses, and fresh evidence, the smallest item, is a cham-
           above, not at him. The tree seemed sorrowful in its withering      pion to speak for it. Being about to do wrong, she grasped at
           flowers of the colour of trodden snow.                             this eagerly, and brooded on the little of vital and truthful
               Crossjay resumed the conversation.                             that there was in the man and how he corrupted the boy.
               “He says ladies don’t like him much.”                          Nevertheless, she instinctively imitated Crossjay in an almost
               “Who says that?”                                               sparkling salute to him.
               “Mr. Whitford.”                                                    “Good-morning, Willoughby; it was not a morning to lose:
               “Were those his words?”                                        have you been out long?”
               “I forget the words: but he said they wouldn’t be taught           He retained her hand. “My dear Clara! and you, have you
           by him, like me, ever since you came; and since you came I’ve      not overfatigued yourself? Where have you been?”
           liked him ten times more.”                                             “Round—everywhere! And I am certainly not tired.”
               “The more you like him the more I shall like you, Crossjay.”       “Only you and Crossjay? You should have loosened the
               The boy raised a shout and scampered away to Sir               dogs.”
           Willoughby, at the appearance of whom Clara felt herself               “Their barking would have annoyed the house.”
           nipped and curling inward. Crossjay ran up to him with ev-             “Less than I am annoyed to think of you without protec-
           ery sign of pleasure. Yet he had not mentioned him during          tion.”
           the walk; and Clara took it for a sign that the boy understood         He kissed her fingers: it was a loving speech.
           the entire satisfaction Willoughby had in mere shows of af-            “The household . . .” said Clara, but would not insist to
           fection, and acted up to it. Hardly blaming Crossjay, she was      convict him of what he could not have perceived.
           a critic of the scene, for the reason that youthful creatures          “If you outstrip me another morning, Clara, promise me
           who have ceased to love a person, hunger for evidence against      to take the dogs; will you?”
           him to confirm their hard animus, which will seem to them              “Yes.”
           sometimes, when he is not immediately irritating them, brut-           “To-day I am altogether yours.”
           ish, because they can not analyze it and reduce it to the mul-         “Are you?”
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           titude of just antagonisms whereof it came. It has passed by           “From the first to the last hour of it!—So you fall in with
           large accumulation into a sombre and speechless load upon          Horace’s humour pleasantly?”
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           394                                                                                                                                395

               “He is very amusing.”                                            to you, Colonel De Craye.”
               “As good as though one had hired him.”                              “Will you one day?—and not think me a perpetual tum-
               “Here comes Colonel De Craye.”                                   bler! You have heard of melancholy clowns. You will find the
               “He must think we have hired him!”                               face not so laughable behind my paint. When I was thirteen
               She noticed the bitterness of Willoughby’s tone. He sang         years younger I was loved, and my dearest sank to the grave.
           out a good-morning to De Craye, and remarked that he must            Since then I have not been quite at home in life; probably
           go to the stables.                                                   because of finding no one so charitable as she. ’Tis easy to win
               “Darleton? Darleton, Miss Middleton?” said the colonel,          smiles and hands, but not so easy to win a woman whose faith
           rising from his bow to her: “a daughter of General Darleton?         you would trust as your own heart before the enemy. I was
           If so, I have had the honour to dance with her. And have not         poor then. She said. ‘The day after my twenty-first birth-
           you?—practised with her, I mean; or gone off in a triumph to         day’; and that day I went for her, and I wondered they did
           dance it out as young ladies do? So you know what a delight-         not refuse me at the door. I was shown upstairs, and I saw her,
           ful partner she is.”                                                 and saw death. She wished to marry me, to leave me her for-
               “She is!” cried Clara, enthusiastic for her succouring friend,   tune!”
           whose letter was the treasure in her bosom.                             “Then, never marry,” said Clara, in an underbreath.
               “Oddly, the name did not strike me yesterday, Miss                  She glanced behind.
           Middleton. In the middle of the night it rang a little silver           Sir Willoughby was close, walking on turf.
           bell in my ear, and I remembered the lady I was half in love            “I must be cunning to escape him after breakfast,” she
           with, if only for her dancing. She is dark, of your height, as       thought.
           light on her feet; a sister in another colour. Now that I know          He had discarded his foolishness of the previous days, and
           her to be your friend . . . !”                                       the thought in him could have replied: “I am a dolt if I let
               “Why, you may meet her, Colonel De Craye.”                       you out of my sight.”
               “It’ll be to offer her a castaway. And one only meets a             Vernon appeared, formal as usual of late. Clara begged his
           charming girl to hear that she’s engaged! ’Tis not a line of a       excuse for withdrawing Crossjay from his morning swim. He
Contents




           ballad, Miss Middleton, but out of the heart.”                       nodded.
               “Lucy Darleton . . . You were leading me to talk seriously          De Craye called to Willoughby for a book of the trains.
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           396                                                                                                                               397

               “There’s a card in the smoking-room; eleven, one, and four      and tactician in that arm. The colonel despised himself for
           are the hours, if you must go,” said Willoughby.                    not having been devoted to Clara Middleton’s friend.
               “You leave the Hall, Colonel De Craye?”                             The morning’s letters were on the bronze plate in the hall.
               “In two or three days, Miss Middleton.”                         Clara passed on her way to her room without inspecting them.
               She did not request him to stay: his announcement pro-          De Craye opened an envelope and went upstairs to scribble a
           duced no effect on her. Consequently, thought he—well, what?        line. Sir Willoughby observed their absence at the solemn
           nothing: well, then, that she might not be minded to stay           reading to the domestic servants in advance of breakfast. Three
           herself. Otherwise she would have regretted the loss of an          chairs were unoccupied. Vernon had his own notions of a
           amusing companion: that is the modest way of putting it.            mechanical service—and a precious profit he derived from
           There is a modest and a vain for the same sentiment; and            them! but the other two seats returned the stare Willoughby
           both may be simultaneously in the same breast; and each one         cast at their backs with an impudence that reminded him of
           as honest as the other; so shy is man’s vanity in the presence of   his friend Horace’s calling for a book of the trains, when a
           here and there a lady. She liked him: she did not care a pin for    minute afterward he admitted he was going to stay at the
           him—how could she? yet she liked him: O, to be able to do           Hall another two days, or three. The man possessed by jeal-
           her some kindling bit of service! These were his consecutive        ousy is never in need of matter for it: he magnifies; grass is
           fancies, resolving naturally to the exclamation, and built on       jungle, hillocks are mountains. Willoughby’s legs crossing and
           the conviction that she did not love Willoughby, and waited         uncrossing audibly, and his tight-folded arms and clearing of
           for a spirited lift from circumstances. His call for a book of      the throat, were faint indications of his condition.
           the trains had been a sheer piece of impromptu, in the mind             “Are you in fair health this morning, Willoughby?” Dr.
           as well as on the mouth. It sprang, unknown to him, of con-         Middleton said to him after he had closed his volumes.
           jectures he had indulged yesterday and the day before. This             “The thing is not much questioned by those who know
           morning she would have an answer to her letter to her friend,       me intimately,” he replied.
           Miss Lucy Darleton, the pretty dark girl, whom De Craye                 “Willoughby unwell!” and, “He is health incarnate!” ex-
           was astonished not to have noticed more when he danced with         claimed the ladies Eleanor and Isabel.
Contents




           her. She, pretty as she was, had come to his recollection through       Laetitia grieved for him. Sun-rays on a pest-stricken city,
           the name and rank of her father, a famous general of cavalry,       she thought, were like the smile of his face. She believed that
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           398                                                                                                                             399

           he deeply loved Clara, and had learned more of her alien-             “A stale bun, my boy?”
           ation.                                                                “Yesterday’s: there wasn’t much of a stopper to you in it,
               He went into the ball to look into the well for the pair of   like a new bun.”
           malefactors; on fire with what he could not reveal to a soul.         “And where did you leave Miss Middleton when you went
               De Craye was in the housekeeper’s room, talking to young      to buy the bun? You should never leave a lady; and the street
           Crossjay, and Mrs. Montague just come up to breakfast. He         of a country town is lonely at that early hour. Crossjay, you
           had heard the boy chattering, and as the door was ajar he         surprise me.”
           peeped in, and was invited to enter. Mrs. Montague was very           “She forced me to go, colonel. Indeed she did. What do I
           fond of hearing him talk: he paid her the familiar respect        care for a bun! And she was quite safe. We could hear the
           which a lady of fallen fortunes, at a certain period after the    people stirring in the post-office, and I met our postman go-
           fall, enjoys as a befittingly sad souvenir, and the respectful-   ing for his letter-bag. I didn’t want to go: bother the bun!—
           ness of the lord of the house was more chilling.                  but you can’t disobey Miss Middleton. I never want to, and
               She bewailed the boy’s trying his constitution with long      wouldn’t.”
           walks before he had anything in him to walk on.                       “There we’re of the same mind,” said the colonel, and
               “And where did you go this morning, my lad?” said De          Crossjay shouted, for the lady whom they exalted was at the
           Craye.                                                            door.
               “Ah, you know the ground, colonel,” said Crossjay. “I am          “You will be too tired for a ride this morning,” De Craye
           hungry! I shall eat three eggs and some bacon, and buttered       said to her, descending the stairs.
           cakes, and jam, then begin again, on my second cup of cof-            She swung a bonnet by the ribands. “I don’t think of riding
           fee.”                                                             to-day.”
               “It’s not braggadocio,” remarked Mrs. Montague. “He waits         “Why did you not depute your mission to me?”
           empty from five in the morning till nine, and then he comes           “I like to bear my own burdens, as far as I can.”
           famished to my table, and cats too much.”                             “Miss Darleton is well?”
               “Oh! Mrs. Montague, that is what the country people call          “I presume so.”
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           roemancing. For, Colonel De Craye, I had a bun at seven               “Will you try her recollection for me?”
           o’clock. Miss Middleton forced me to go and buy it”                   “It will probably be quite as lively as yours was.”
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           400                                                                                                                              401

               “Shall you see her soon?”                                      I do not dwell on the costliness. Come presently, then. I am
               “I hope so.”                                                   at your disposal all day. I will drive you in the afternoon to
               Sir Willoughby met her at the foot of the stairs, but re-      call on Lady Busshe to offer your thanks: but you must see it
           frained from giving her a hand that shook.                         first. It is laid out in the laboratory.”
               “We shall have the day together,” he said.                         “There is time before the afternoon,” said Clara.
               Clara bowed.                                                       “Wedding presents?” interposed De Craye.
               At the breakfast-table she faced a clock.                          “A porcelain service from Lady Busshe, Horace.”
               De Craye took out his watch. “You are five and a half min-         “Not in fragments? Let me have a look at it. I’m haunted
           utes too slow by that clock, Willoughby.”                          by an idea that porcelain always goes to pieces. I’ll have a look
               “The man omitted to come from Rendon to set it last            and take a hint. We’re in the laboratory, Miss Middleton.”
           week, Horace. He will find the hour too late here for him              He put his arm under Willoughby’s. The resistance to
           when he does come.”                                                him was momentary: Willoughby had the satisfaction of the
               One of the ladies compared the time of her watch with De       thought that De Craye being with him was not with Clara;
           Craye’s, and Clara looked at hers and gratefully noted that        and seeing her giving orders to her maid Barclay, he deferred
           she was four minutes in arrear.                                    his claim on her company for some short period.
               She left the breakfast-room at a quarter to ten, after kiss-       De Craye detained him in the laboratory, first over the
           ing her father. Willoughby was behind her. He had been             China cups and saucers, and then with the latest of Lon-
           soothed by thinking of his personal advantages over De Craye,      don—tales of youngest Cupid upon subterranean adventures,
           and he felt assured that if he could be solitary with his eccen-   having high titles to light him. Willoughby liked the tale
           tric bride and fold her in himself, he would, cutting temper       thus illuminated, for without the title there was no special
           adrift, be the man he had been to her not so many days back.       savour in such affairs, and it pulled down his betters in rank.
           Considering how few days back, his temper was roused, but          He was of a morality to reprobate the erring dame while he
           he controlled it.                                                  enjoyed the incidents. He could not help interrupting De
               They were slightly dissenting as De Craye stepped into         Craye to point at Vernon through the window, striding this
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           the hall.                                                          way and that, evidently on the hunt for young Crossjay. “No
               “A present worth examining,” Willoughby said to her: “and      one here knows how to manage the boy except myself But go
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           402                                                                                                                                 403

           on, Horace,” he said, checking his contemptuous laugh; and            lessness. The idea of her being out of doors grew serious; heaven
           Vernon did look ridiculous, out there half-drenched already           was black, hard thunder rolled, and lightning flushed the bat-
           in a white rain, again shuffled off by the little rascal. It seemed   tering rain. Men bearing umbrellas, shawls, and cloaks were
           that he was determined to have his runaway: he struck up the          dispatched on a circuit of the park. De Craye said: “I’ll be
           avenue at full pedestrian racing pace.                                one.”
               “A man looks a fool cutting after a cricket-ball; but, put-           “No,” cried Willoughby, starting to interrupt him, “I can’t
           ting on steam in a storm of rain to catch a young villain out of      allow it.”
           sight, beats anything I’ve witnessed,” Willoughby resumed,                “I’ve the scent of a hound, Willoughby; I’ll soon be on
           in his amusement.                                                     the track.”
               “Aiha!” said De Craye, waving a hand to accompany the                 “My dear Horace, I won’t let you go.”
           melodious accent, “there are things to beat that for fun.”                “Adieu, dear boy! and if the lady’s discoverable, I’m the
               He had smoked in the laboratory, so Willoughby directed           one to find her.”
           a servant to transfer the porcelain service to one of the sit-            He stepped to the umbrella-stand. There was then a gen-
           ting-rooms for Clara’s inspection of it.                              eral question whether Clara had taken her umbrella. Barclay
               “You’re a bold man,” De Craye remarked. “The luck may             said she had. The fact indicated a wider stroll than round
           be with you, though. I wouldn’t handle the fragile treasure           inside the park: Crossjay was likewise absent. De Craye nod-
           for a trifle.”                                                        ded to himself.
               “I believe in my luck,” said Willoughby.                              Willoughby struck a rattling blow on the barometer.
               Clara was now sought for. The lord of the house desired               “Where’s Pollington?” he called, and sent word for his man
           her presence impatiently, and had to wait. She was in none of         Pollington to bring big fishing-boots and waterproof wrap-
           the lower rooms. Barclay, her maid, upon interrogation, de-           pers.
           clared she was in none of the upper. Willoughby turned sharp              An urgent debate within him was in progress.
           on De Craye: he was there.                                                Should he go forth alone on his chance of discovering Clara
               The ladies Eleanor and Isabel and Miss Dale were con-             and forgiving her under his umbrella and cloak? or should he
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           sulted. They had nothing to say about Clara’s movements,              prevent De Craye from going forth alone on the chance he
           more than that they could not understand her exceeding rest-          vaunted so impudently?
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           404                                                                                                                                405

               “You will offend me, Horace, if you insist,” he said.            which would attach to him for seeking and finding her. Deadly
               “Regard me as an instrument of destiny, Willoughby,” re-         sentiments intervened. Still he might expect to be alone with
           plied De Craye.                                                      her where she could not slip from him.
               “Then we go in company.”                                             The throwing open of the hall-doors for the gentlemen
               “But that’s an addition of one that cancels the other by         presented a framed picture of a deluge. All the young-leaved
           conjunction, and’s worse than simple division: for I can’t trust     trees were steely black, without a gradation of green, droop-
           my wits unless I rely on them alone, you see.”                       ing and pouring, and the song of rain had become an inveter-
               “Upon my word, you talk at times most unintelligible stuff,      ate hiss.
           to be frank with you, Horace. Give it in English.”                       The ladies beholding it exclaimed against Clara, even apos-
               “’Tis not suited, perhaps, to the genius of the language,        trophized her, so dark are trivial errors when circumstances
           for I thought I talked English.”                                     frown. She must be mad to tempt such weather: she was very
               “Oh, there’s English gibberish as well as Irish, we know!”       giddy; she was never at rest. Clara! Clara! how could you be
               “And a deal foolisher when they do go at it; for it won’t        so wild! Ought we not to tell Dr. Middleton?
           bear squeezing, we think, like Irish.”                                   Laetitia induced them to spare him.
               “Where!” exclaimed the ladies, “where can she be! The                “Which way do you take?” said Willoughby, rather fear-
           storm is terrible.”                                                  ful that his companion was not to be got rid of now.
               Laetitia suggested the boathouse.                                    “Any way,” said De Craye. “I chuck up my head like a
               “For Crossjay hadn’t a swim this morning!” said De Craye.        halfpenny, and go by the toss.”
               No one reflected on the absurdity that Clara should think            This enraging nonsense drove off Willoughby. De Craye
           of taking Crossjay for a swim in the lake, and immediately           saw him cast a furtive eye at his heels to make sure he was not
           after his breakfast: it was accepted as a suggestion at least that   followed, and thought, “Jove! he may be fond of her. But he’s
           she and Crossjay had gone to the lake for a row.                     not on the track. She’s a determined girl, if I’m correct. She’s a
               In the hopefulness of the idea, Willoughby suffered De           girl of a hundred thousand. Girls like that make the right sort
           Craye to go on his chance unaccompanied. He was near chuck-          of wives for the right men. They’re the girls to make men
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           ling. He projected a plan for dismissing Crossjay and remain-        think of marrying. To-morrow! only give me a chance. They
           ing in the boathouse with Clara, luxuriating in the prestige         stick to you fast when they do stick.”
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           406                                                                                                                             407

               Then a thought of her flower-like drapery and face caused     consequence that she was at the present moment flying to her
           him fervently to hope she had escaped the storm.                  friend, the charming brunette Lucy Darleton.
               Calling at the West park-lodge he heard that Miss                 Still, as there was a possibility of the rain having been too
           Middleton had been seen passing through the gate with Master      much for her, and as he had no other speculation concerning
           Crossjay; but she had not been seen coming back. Mr. Vernon       the route she had taken, he decided upon keeping along the
           Whitford had passed through half an hour later.                   road to Rendon, with a keen eye at cottage and farmhouse
               “After his young man!” said the colonel.                      windows.
               The lodge-keeper’s wife and daughter knew of Master
           Crossjay’s pranks; Mr. Whitford, they said, had made inquir-
           ies about him and must have caught him and sent him home
           to change his dripping things; for Master Crossjay had come
           back, and had declined shelter in the lodge; he seemed to be
           crying; he went away soaking over the wet grass, hanging his
           head. The opinion at the lodge was that Master Crossjay was
           unhappy.
               “He very properly received a wigging from Mr. Whitford,
           I have no doubt,” said Colonel Do Craye.
               Mother and daughter supposed it to be the case, and con-
           sidered Crossjay very wilful for not going straight home to
           the Hall to change his wet clothes; he was drenched.
               Do Craye drew out his watch. The time was ten minutes
           past eleven. If the surmise he had distantly spied was correct,
           Miss Middleton would have been caught in the storm mid-
           way to her destination. By his guess at her character (knowl-
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           edge of it, he would have said), he judged that no storm would
           daunt her on a predetermined expedition. He deduced in
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           408                                                                                                                               409

                                                                               took for a decent piece of trickery. It was with amazement
                                                                               that he heard from the mother and daughter, as well as Jacob,
                                                                               of Miss Middleton’s going through the gate before ten o’clock
                                                                               with Crossjay beside her, the latter too hurried to spare a nod
                                                                               to Jacob. That she, of all on earth, should be encouraging
                                                                               Crossjay to truancy was incredible. Vernon had to fall back
                                                                               upon Greek and Latin aphoristic shots at the sex to believe it.
                                                                                   Rain was universal; a thick robe of it swept from hill to
                                                                               hill; thunder rumbled remote, and between the ruffled roars
                                                                               the downpour pressed on the land with a great noise of eager
                               Chapter 26.                                     gobbling, much like that of the swine’s trough fresh filled, as
                                     Vernon in pursuit.                        though a vast assembly of the hungered had seated them-
                                                                               selves clamorously and fallen to on meats and drinks in a si-
               The lodge-keeper had a son, who was a chum of Master            lence, save of the chaps. A rapid walker poetically and
           Crossjay’s, and errant-fellow with him upon many adventures;        humourously minded gathers multitudes of images on his
           for this boy’s passion was to become a gamekeeper, and ac-          way. And rain, the heaviest you can meet, is a lively compan-
           companied by one of the head-gamekeeper’s youngsters, he            ion when the resolute pacer scorns discomfort of wet clothes
           and Crossjay were in the habit of rangeing over the country,        and squealing boots. South-western rain-clouds, too, are never
           preparing for a profession delightful to the tastes of all three.   long sullen: they enfold and will have the earth in a good
           Crossjay’s prospective connection with the mysterious ocean         strong glut of the kissing overflow; then, as a hawk with feath-
           bestowed the title of captain on him by common consent; he          ers on his beak of the bird in his claw lifts head, they rise and
           led them, and when missing for lessons he was generally in          take veiled feature in long climbing watery lines: at any mo-
           the society of Jacob Croom or Jonathan Fernaway. Vernon             ment they may break the veil and show soft upper cloud,
                                                                               show sun on it, show sky, green near the verge they spring
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           made sure of Crossjay when he perceived Jacob Croom sit-
           ting on a stool in the little lodge-parlour. Jacob’s appearance     from, of the green of grass in early dew; or, along a travelling
           of a diligent perusal of a book he had presented to the lad, he     sweep that rolls asunder overhead, heaven’s laughter of purest
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           410                                                                                                                              411

           blue among titanic white shoulders: it may mean fair smiling       curtain; the clouds were as he liked to see them, scaling; but
           for awhile, or be the lightest interlude; but the watery lines,    their skirts dragged. Torrents were in store, for they coursed
           and the drifting, the chasing, the upsoaring, all in a shadowy     streamingly still and had not the higher lift, or eagle ascent,
           fingering of form, and the animation of the leaves of the trees    which he knew for one of the signs of fairness, nor had the
           pointing them on, the bending of the tree-tops, the snapping       hills any belt of mist-like vapour.
           of branches, and the hurrahings of the stubborn hedge at               On a step of the stile leading to the short-cut to Rendon
           wrestle with the flaws, yielding but a leaf at most, and that on   young Crossjay was espied. A man-tramp sat on the top-bar.
           a fling, make a glory of contest and wildness without aid of           “There you are; what are you doing there? Where’s Miss
           colour to inflame the man who is at home in them from old          Middleton?” said Vernon. “Now, take care before you open
           association on road, heath, and mountain. Let him be               your mouth.”
           drenched, his heart will sing. And thou, trim cockney, that            Crossjay shut the mouth he had opened.
           jeerest, consider thyself, to whom it may occur to be out in           “The lady has gone away over to a station, sir,” said the
           such a scene, and with what steps of a nervous dancing-mas-        tramp.
           ter it would be thine to play the hunted rat of the elements,          “You fool!” roared Crossjay, ready to fly at him.
           for the preservation of the one imagined dryspot about thee,           “But ain’t it now, young gentleman? Can you say it ain’t?”
           somewhere on thy luckless person! The taking of rain and sun           “I gave you a shilling, you ass!”
           alike befits men of our climate, and he who would have the             “You give me that sum, young gentleman, to stop here and
           secret of a strengthening intoxication must court the clouds       take care of you, and here I stopped.”
           of the South-west with a lover’s blood.                                “Mr. Whitford!” Crossjay appealed to his master, and broke
               Vernon’s happy recklessness was dashed by fears for Miss       of in disgust. “Take care of me! As if anybody who knows me
           Middleton. Apart from those fears, he had the pleasure of a        would think I wanted taking care of! Why, what a beast you
           gull wheeling among foam-streaks of the wave. He supposed          must be, you fellow!”
           the Swiss and Tyrol Alps to have hidden their heads from               “Just as you like, young gentleman. I chaunted you all I
           him for many a day to come, and the springing and chiming          know, to keep up your downcast spirits. You did want com-
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           South-west was the next best thing. A milder rain descended;       forting. You wanted it rarely. You cried like an infant.”
           the country expanded darkly defined underneath the moving              “I let you ‘chaunt’, as you call it, to keep you from swear-
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           412                                                                                                                             413

           ing.”                                                                 “Way there!” Vernon cried, and took the stile at a vault.
               “And why did I swear, young gentleman? because I’ve got           “That’s what gentlemen can do, who sleeps in their beds
           an itchy coat in the wet, and no shirt for a lining. And no       warm,” moaned the tramp. “They’ve no joints.”
           breakfast to give me a stomach for this kind of weather. That’s       Vernon handed him a half-crown piece, for he had been
           what I’ve come to in this world! I’m a walking moral. No          of use for once.
           wonder I swears, when I don’t strike up a chaunt.”                    “Mr. Whitford, let me come. If you tell me to come I
               “But why are you sitting here wet through, Crossjay! Be       may. Do let me come,” Crossjay begged with great entreaty. “I
           off home at once, and change, and get ready for me.”              sha’n’t see her for . . .”
               “Mr. Whitford, I promised, and I tossed this fellow a shil-       “Be off, quick!” Vernon cut him short and pushed on.
           ling not to go bothering Miss Middleton.”                             The tramp and Crossjay were audible to him; Crossjay
               “The lady wouldn’t have none o” the young gentleman, sir,     spurning the consolations of the professional sad man.
           and I offered to go pioneer for her to the station, behind her,       Vernon spun across the fields, timing himself by his watch
           at a respectful distance.”                                        to reach Rendon station ten minutes before eleven, though
               “As if!—you treacherous cur!” Crossjay ground his teeth       without clearly questioning the nature of the resolution which
           at the betrayer. “Well, Mr. Whitford, and I didn’t trust him,     precipitated him. Dropping to the road, he had better foot-
           and I stuck to him, or he’d have been after her whining about     hold than on the slippery field-path, and he ran. His princi-
           his coat and stomach, and talking of his being a moral. He        pal hope was that Clara would have missed her way. Another
           repeats that to everybody.”                                       pelting of rain agitated him on her behalf. Might she not as
               “She has gone to the station?” said Vernon.                   well be suffered to go?—and sit three hours and more in a
               Not a word on that subject was to be won from Crossjay.       railway-carriage with wet feet!
               “How long since?” Vernon partly addressed Mr. Tramp.              He clasped the visionary little feet to warm them on his
               The latter became seized with shivers as he supplied the      breast.—But Willoughby’s obstinate fatuity deserved the
           information that it might be a quarter of an hour or twenty       blow!—But neither she nor her father deserved the scandal.
           minutes. “But what’s time to me, sir? If I had reglar meals, I    But she was desperate. Could reasoning touch her? if not,
Contents




           should carry a clock in my inside. I got the rheumatics in-       what would? He knew of nothing. Yesterday he had spoken
           stead.”                                                           strongly to Willoughby, to plead with him to favour her de-
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           414                                                                                                                               415

           parture and give her leisure to sound her mind, and he had         more useless it gets. Pill and priest launch him happy be-
           left his cousin, convinced that Clara’s best measure was flight:   tween them.—’And what’s on your conscience, Pat?—It’s
           a man so cunning in a pretended obtuseness backed by sense-        whether your blessing, your Riverence, would disagree with
           less pride, and in petty tricks that sprang of a grovelling tyr-   another drop. Then put the horse before the cart, my son, and
           anny, could only be taught by facts.                               you shall have the two in harmony, and God speed ye!’—
               Her recent treatment of him, however, was very strange;        Rendon station, did you say, Vernon? You shall have my pre-
           so strange that he might have known himself better if he had       scription at the Railway Arms, if you’re hurried. You have the
           reflected on the bound with which it shot him to a hard sus-       look. What is it? Can I help?”
           picion. De Craye had prepared the world to hear that he was            “No. And don’t ask.”
           leaving the Hall. Were they in concert? The idea struck at his         “You’re like the Irish Grenadier who had a bullet in a hu-
           heart colder than if her damp little feet had been there.          miliating situation. Here’s Rendon, and through it we go with
               Vernon’s full exoneration of her for making a confidant of     a spanking clatter. Here’s Doctor Corney’s dog-cart post-haste
           himself, did not extend its leniency to the young lady’s char-     again. For there’s no dying without him now, and Repentance
           acter when there was question of her doing the same with a         is on the death-bed for not calling him in before. Half a charge
           second gentleman. He could suspect much: he could even             of humbug hurts no son of a gun, friend Vernon, if he’d have
           expect to find De Craye at the station.                            his firing take effect. Be tender to’t in man or woman, par-
               That idea drew him up in his run, to meditate on the part      ticularly woman. So, by goes the meteoric doctor, and I’ll
           he should play; and by drove little Dr. Corney on the way to       bring noses to window-panes, you’ll see, which reminds me
           Rendon and hailed him, and gave his cheerless figure the near-     of the sweetest young lady I ever saw, and the luckiest man.
           est approach to an Irish bug in the form of a dry seat under       When is she off for her bridal trousseau? And when are they
           an umbrella and water-proof covering.                              spliced? I’ll not call her perfection, for that’s a post, afraid to
               “Though it is the worst I can do for you, if you decline to    move. But she’s a dancing sprig of the tree next it. Poetry’s
           supplement it with a dose of hot brandy and water at the           wanted to speak of her. I’m Irish and inflammable, I suppose,
           Dolphin,” said he: “and I’ll see you take it, if you please. I’m   but I never looked on a girl to make a man comprehend the
Contents




           bound to ease a Rendon patient out of the world. Medicine’s        entire holy meaning of the word rapturous, like that one. And
           one of their superstitions, which they cling to the harder the     away she goes! We’ll not say another word. But you’re a Gre-
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           416                                                                                                                            417

           cian, friend Vernon. Now, couldn’t you think her just a whiff
           of an idea of a daughter of a peccadillo-Goddess?”
               “Deuce take you, Corney, drop me here; I shall be late for
           the train,” said Vernon, laying hand on the doctor’s arm to
           check him on the way to the station in view.
               Dr Corney had a Celtic intelligence for a meaning behind
           an illogical tongue. He drew up, observing. “Two minutes
           run won’t hurt you.”
               He slightly fancied he might have given offence, though
           he was well acquainted with Vernon and had a cordial grasp
           at the parting.                                                                        Chapter 27.
               The truth must be told that Vernon could not at the mo-                                At the railway station.
           ment bear any more talk from an Irishman. Dr. Corney had
           succeeded in persuading him not to wonder at Clara                   Clara stood in the waiting-room contemplating the white
           Middleton’s liking for Colonel de Craye.                         rails of the rain-swept line. Her lips parted at the sight of
                                                                            Vernon.
                                                                                “You have your ticket?” said he.
                                                                                She nodded, and breathed more freely; the matter-of-fact
                                                                            question was reassuring.
                                                                                “You are wet,” he resumed; and it could not be denied.
                                                                                “A little. I do not feel it.”
                                                                                “I must beg you to come to the inn hard by—half a dozen
                                                                            steps. We shall see your train signalled. Come.”
Contents




                                                                                She thought him startlingly authoritative, but he had good
                                                                            sense to back him; and depressed as she was by the dampness,
                                                                            she was disposed to yield to reason if he continued to respect
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           418                                                                                                                               419

           her independence. So she submitted outwardly, resisted in-          bust among the females. All of them had the aspect of the
           wardly, on the watch to stop him from taking any decisive           national energy which has vanquished obstacles to subside on
           lead.                                                               its ideal. They all gazed straight at the guest. “Drink, and
               “Shall we be sure to see the signal, Mr. Whitford?”             come to this!” they might have been labelled to say to him.
               “I’ll provide for that.”                                        He was in the private Walhalla of a large class of his country-
               He spoke to the station-clerk, and conducted her across         men. The existing host had taken forethought to be of the
           the road.                                                           party in his prime, and in the central place, looking fresh-
               “You are quite alone, Miss Middleton?”                          fattened there and sanguine from the performance. By and
               “I am: I have not brought my maid.”                             by a son would shove him aside; meanwhile he shelved his
               “You must take off boots and stockings at once, and have        parent, according to the manners of energy.
           them dried. I’ll put you in the hands of the landlady.”                 One should not be a critic of our works of Art in uncom-
               “But my train!”                                                 fortable garments. Vernon turned from the portraits to a
               “You have full fifteen minutes, besides fair chances of de-     stuffed pike in a glass case, and plunged into sympathy with
           lay.”                                                               the fish for a refuge.
               He seemed reasonable, the reverse of hostile, in spite of his       Clara soon rejoined him, saying: “But you, you must be
           commanding air, and that was not unpleasant in one friendly         very wet. You were without an umbrella. You must be wet
           to her adventure. She controlled her alert distrustfulness, and     through, Mr. Whitford.”
           passed from him to the landlady, for her feet were wet and              “We’re all wet through, to-day,” said Vernon. “Crossjay’s
           cold, the skirts of her dress were soiled; generally inspecting     wet through, and a tramp he met.”
           herself, she was an object to be shuddered at, and she was              “The horrid man! But Crossjay should have turned back
           grateful to Vernon for his inattention to her appearance.           when I told him. Cannot the landlord assist you? You are not
               Vernon ordered Dr. Corney’s dose, and was ushered up-           tied to time. I begged Crossjay to turn back when it began to
           stairs to a room of portraits, where the publican’s ancestors       rain: when it became heavy I compelled him. So you met my
           and family sat against the walls, flat on their canvas as weeds     poor Crossjay?”
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           of the botanist’s portfolio, although corpulency was pretty             “You have not to blame him for betraying you. The tramp
           generally insisted on, and there were formidable battalions of      did that. I was thrown on your track quite by accident. Now
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           420                                                                                                                                 421

           pardon me for using authority, and don’t be alarmed, Miss                 “Did you not choose the day?”
           Middleton; you are perfectly free for me; but you must not                “Not the weather.”
           run a risk to your health. I met Doctor Corney coming along,              “And the worst of it is, that Willoughby will come upon
           and he prescribed hot brandy and water for a wet skin, espe-          Crossjay wet to the bone, and pump him and get nothing but
           cially for sitting in it. There’s the stuff on the table; I see you   shufflings, blank lies, and then find him out and chase him
           have been aware of a singular odour; you must consent to sip          from the house.”
           some, as medicine; merely to give you warmth.”                            Clara drank immediately, and more than she intended. She
               “Impossible, Mr. Whitford: I could not taste it. But pray,        held the glass as an enemy to be delivered from, gasping, un-
           obey Dr. Corney, if he ordered it for you.”                           certain of her breath.
               “I can’t, unless you do.”                                             “Never let me be asked to endure such a thing again!”
               “I will, then: I will try.”                                           “You are unlikely to be running away from father and
               She held the glass, attempted, and was baffled by the reek        friends again.”
           of it.                                                                    She panted still with the fiery liquid she had gulped: and
               “Try: you can do anything,” said Vernon.                          she wondered that it should belie its reputation in not forti-
               “Now that you find me here, Mr. Whitford! Anything for            fying her, but rendering her painfully susceptible to his re-
           myself it would seem, and nothing to save a friend. But I will        marks.
           really try.”                                                              “Mr. Whitford, I need not seek to know what you think
               “It must be a good mouthful.”                                     of me.”
               “I will try. And you will finish the glass?”                          “What I think? I don’t think at all; I wish to serve you if
               “With your permission, if you do not leave too much.”             I can.”
               They were to drink out of the same glass; and she was to              “Am I right in supposing you a little afraid of me? You
           drink some of this infamous mixture: and she was in a kind of         should not be. I have deceived no one. I have opened my
           hotel alone with him: and he was drenched in running after            heart to you, and am not ashamed of having done so.”
           her:—all this came of breaking loose for an hour!                         “It is an excellent habit, they say.”
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               “Oh! what a misfortune that it should be such a day, Mr.              “It is not a habit with me.”
           Whitford!”                                                                He was touched, and for that reason, in his dissatisfaction
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           422                                                                                                                              423

           with himself, not unwilling to hurt. “We take our turn, Miss       affliction to see, and coiled through her, causing her to shrink
           Middleton. I’m no hero, and a bad conspirator, so I am not of      and redden.
           much avail.”                                                           Fugitives are subject to strange incidents; they are not ves-
               “You have been reserved—but I am going, and I leave my         sels lying safe in harbour. She shut her lips tight, as if they
           character behind. You condemned me to the poison-bowl;             had stung. The realizing sensitiveness of her quick nature ac-
           you have not touched it yourself ”                                 cused them of a loss of bloom. And the man who made her
               “In vino veritas: if I do I shall be speaking my mind.”        smart like this was formal as a railway official on a platform.
               “Then do, for the sake of mind and body.”                          “Now we are both pledged in the poison-bowl,” said he.
               “It won’t be complimentary.”                                   “And it has the taste of rank poison, I confess. But the doctor
               “You can be harsh. Only say everything.”                       prescribed it, and at sea we must be sailors. Now, Miss
               “Have we time?”                                                Middleton, time presses: will you return with me?”
               They looked at their watches.                                      “No! no!”
               “Six minutes,” Clara said.                                         “Where do you propose to go?”
               Vernon’s had stopped, penetrated by his total drenching.           “To London; to a friend—Miss Darleton.”
               She reproached herself. He laughed to quiet her. “My dies          “What message is there for your father?”
           solemnes are sure to give me duckings; I’m used to them. As            “Say I have left a letter for him in a letter to be delivered
           for the watch, it will remind me that it stopped when you          to you.”
           went.”                                                                 “To me! And what message for Willoughby?”
               She raised the glass to him. She was happier and hoped             “My maid Barclay will hand him a letter at noon.”
           for some little harshness and kindness mixed that she might            “You have sealed Crossjay’s fate.”
           carry away to travel with and think over.                              “How?”
               He turned the glass as she had given it, turned it round in        “He is probably at this instant undergoing an interroga-
           putting it to his lips: a scarce perceptible manoeuvre, but that   tion. You may guess at his replies. The letter will expose him,
           she had given it expressly on one side.                            and Willoughby does not pardon.”
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               It may be hoped that it was not done by design. Done               “I regret it. I cannot avoid it. Poor boy! My dear Crossjay!
           even accidentally, without a taint of contrivance, it was an       I did not think of how Willoughby might punish him. I was
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           424                                                                                                                                425

           very thoughtless. Mr. Whitford, my pin-money shall go for               “Though?”
           his education. Later, when I am a little older, I shall be able to      “Well, though you do not perfectly understand what tor-
           support him.”                                                        ments have driven me to this.”
               “That’s an encumbrance; you should not tie yourself to              “Carried on tides and blown by winds?”
           drag it about. You are unalterable, of course, but circumstances        “Ah! you do not understand.”
           are not, and as it happens, women are more subject to them              “Mysteries?”
           than we are.”                                                           “Sufferings are not mysteries, they are very simple facts.”
               “But I will not be!”                                                “Well, then, I don’t understand. But decide at once. I wish
               “Your command of them is shown at the present moment.”           you to have your free will.”
               “Because I determine to be free?”                                   She left the room.
               “No: because you do the contrary; you don’t determine:              Dry stockings and boots are better for travelling in than
           you run away from the difficulty, and leave it to your father        wet ones, but in spite of her direct resolve, she felt when draw-
           and friends to bear. As for Crossjay, you see you destroy one        ing them on like one that has been tripped. The goal was
           of his chances. I should have carried him off before this, if I      desirable, the ardour was damped. Vernon’s wish that she
           had not thought it prudent to keep him on terms with                 should have her free will compelled her to sound it: and it
           Willoughby. We’ll let Crossjay stand aside. He’ll behave like        was of course to go, to be liberated, to cast off incubus and
           a man of honour, imitating others who have had to do the             hurt her father? injure Crossjay? distress her friends? No, and
           same for ladies.”                                                    ten times no!
               “Have spoken falsely to shelter cowards, you mean, Mr.              She returned to Vernon in haste, to shun the reflex of her
           Whitford. Oh, I know.—I have but two minutes. The die is             mind.
           cast. I cannot go back. I must get ready. Will you see me to            He was looking at a closed carriage drawn up at the sta-
           the station? I would rather you should hurry home.”                  tion door.
               “I will see the last of you. I will wait for you here. An           “Shall we run over now, Mr. Whitford?”
           express runs ahead of your train, and I have arranged with the          “There’s no signal. Here it’s not so chilly.”
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           clerk for a signal; I have an eye on the window.”                       “I ventured to enclose my letter to papa in yours, trusting
               “You are still my best friend, Mr. Whitford.”                    you would attend to my request to you to break the news to
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           426                                                                                                                             427

           him gently and plead for me.”                                         “Why did you pursue me and wish to stop me, Mr.
               “We will all do the utmost we can.”                           Whitford?” said Clara, on the spur of a wound from his tone.
               “I am doomed to vex those who care for me. I tried to             He replied: “I suppose I’m a busybody; I was never aware
           follow your counsel.”                                             of it till now.”
               “First you spoke to me, and then you spoke to Miss Dale;          “You are my friend. Only you speak in irony so much.
           and at least you have a clear conscience.”                        That was irony, about my clear conscience. I spoke to you and
               “No.”                                                         to Miss Dale: and then I rested and drifted. Can you not feel
               “What burdens it?”                                            for me, that to mention it is like a scorching furnace?
               “I have done nothing to burden it.”                           Willoughby has entangled papa. He schemes incessantly to
               “Then it’s a clear conscience.”                               keep me entangled. I fly from his cunning as much as from
               “No.”                                                         anything. I dread it. I have told you that I am more to blame
               Vernon’s shoulders jerked. Our patience with an innocent      than he, but I must accuse him. And wedding-presents! and
           duplicity in women is measured by the place it assigns to us      congratulations! And to be his guest!”
           and another. If he had liked he could have thought: “You have         “All that makes up a plea in mitigation,” said Vernon.
           not done but meditated something to trouble conscience.”              “Is it not sufficient for you?” she asked him timidly.
           That was evident, and her speaking of it was proof too of the         “You have a masculine good sense that tells you you won’t
           willingness to be dear. He would not help her. Man’s blood,       be respected if you run. Three more days there might cover a
           which is the link with women and responsive to them on the        retreat with your father.”
           instant for or against, obscured him. He shrugged anew when           “He will not listen to me. He confuses me; Willoughby
           she said: “My character would have been degraded utterly by       has bewitched him.”
           my staying there. Could you advise it?”                               “Commission me: I will see that he listens.”
               “Certainly not the degradation of your character,” he said,       “And go back? Oh, no! To London! Besides, there is the
           black on the subject of De Craye, and not lightened by feel-      dining with Mrs. Mountstuart this evening; and I like her
           ings which made him sharply sensible of the beggarly depen-       very well, but I must avoid her. She has a kind of idolatry . . .
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           dant that he was, or poor adventuring scribbler that he was to    And what answers can I give? I supplicate her with looks. She
           become.                                                           observes them, my efforts to divert them from being painful
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           428                                                                                                                               429

           produce a comic expression to her, and I am a charming ‘rogue’,     to reason.”
           and I am entertained on the topic she assumes to be princi-              “It is a compliment. I loathe the ‘lady’s tongue’.”
           pally interesting me. I must avoid her. The thought of her               “It’s a distinctly good gift, and I wish I had it. I might
           leaves me no choice. She is clever. She could tattoo me with        have succeeded instead of failing, and appearing to pay a com-
           epigrams.”                                                          pliment.”
               “Stay . . . there you can hold your own.”                            “Surely the express train is very late, Mr. Whitford?”
               “She has told me you give me credit for a spice of wit. I            “The express has gone by.”
           have not discovered my possession. We have spoken of it; we              “Then we will cross over.”
           call it your delusion. She grants me some beauty; that must              “You would rather not be seen by Mrs. Mountstuart. That
           be hers.”                                                           is her carriage drawn up at the station, and she is in it.”
               “There’s no delusion in one case or the other, Miss                  Clara looked, and with the sinking of her heart said: “I
           Middleton. You have beauty and wit; public opinion will say,        must brave her!”
           wildness: indifference to your reputation will be charged on             “In that case I will take my leave of you here, Miss
           you, and your friends will have to admit it. But you will be        Middleton.”
           out of this difficulty.”                                                 She gave him her hand. “Why is Mrs. Mountstuart at the
               “Ah—to weave a second?”                                         station to-day?”
               “Impossible to judge until we see how you escape the first.          “I suppose she has driven to meet one of the guests for her
           And I have no more to say. I love your father. His humour of        dinner-party. Professor Crooklyn was promised to your fa-
           sententiousness and doctorial stilts is a mask he delights in,      ther, and he may be coming by the down-train.”
           but you ought to know him and not be frightened by it. If                “Go back to the Hall!” exclaimed Clara. “How can I? I
           you sat with him an hour at a Latin task, and if you took his       have no more endurance left in me. If I had some support!—
           hand and told him you could not leave him, and no tears!—           if it were the sense of secretly doing wrong, it might help me
           he would answer you at once. It would involve a day or two          through. I am in a web. I cannot do right, whatever I do.
           further; disagreeable to you, no doubt: preferable to the present   There is only the thought of saving Crossjay. Yes, and sparing
Contents




           mode of escape, as I think. But I have no power whatever to         papa.—Good-bye, Mr. Whitford. I shall remember your
           persuade. I have not the ‘lady’s tongue’. My appeal is always       kindness gratefully. I cannot go back.”
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           430                                                                                                                               431

               “You will not?” said he, tempting her to hesitate.
               “No.”
               “But if you are seen by Mrs. Mountstuart, you must go
           back. I’ll do my best to take her away. Should she see you, you
           must patch up a story and apply to her for a lift. That, I
           think, is imperative.”
               “Not to my mind,” said Clara.
               He bowed hurriedly, and withdrew. After her confession,
           peculiar to her, of possibly finding sustainment in secretly
           doing wrong, her flying or remaining seemed to him a choice
           of evils: and whilst she stood in bewildered speculation on his                           Chapter 28.
           reason for pursuing her—which was not evident—he remem-                                             The return.
           bered the special fear inciting him, and so far did her justice
           as to have at himself on that subject. He had done something            Posted in observation at a corner of the window Clara saw
           perhaps to save her from a cold: such was his only consolatory      Vernon cross the road to Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson’s car-
           thought. He had also behaved like a man of honour, taking no        riage, transformed to the leanest pattern of himself by nar-
           personal advantage of her situation; but to reflect on it re-       rowed shoulders and raised coat-collar. He had such an air of
           called his astonishing dryness. The strict man of honour plays      saying, “Tom’s a-cold”, that her skin crept in sympathy.
           a part that he should not reflect on till about the fall of the         Presently he left the carriage and went into the station: a
           curtain, otherwise he will be likely sometimes to feel the shiver   bell had rung. Was it her train? He approved her going, for
           of foolishness at his good conduct.                                 he was employed in assisting her to go: a proceeding at vari-
                                                                               ance with many things he had said, but he was as full of con-
                                                                               tradiction to-day as women are accused of being. The train
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                                                                               came up. She trembled: no signal had appeared, and Vernon
                                                                               must have deceived her.
                                                                                   He returned; he entered the carriage, and the wheels were
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           432                                                                                                                             433

           soon in motion. Immediately thereupon, Flitch’s fly drove         be: some are locked and keyless, some will not open to the
           past, containing Colonel De Craye.                                key, some are defended by ghosts inside. She could not have
               Vernon could not but have perceived him!                      said what the something witnessed to. If we by chance know
               But what was it that had brought the colonel to this place?   more, we have still no right to make it more prominent than
           The pressure of Vernon’s mind was on her and foiled her ef-       it was with her. And the smell of the glass was odious; it
           forts to assert her perfect innocence, though she knew she had    disgraced her. She had an impulse to pocket the spoon for a
           done nothing to allure the colonel hither. Excepting              memento, to show it to grandchildren for a warning. Even
           Willoughby, Colonel De Craye was the last person she would        the prelude to the morality to be uttered on the occasion
           have wished to encounter.                                         sprang to her lips: “Here, my dears, is a spoon you would he
               She had now a dread of hearing the bell which would tell      ashamed to use in your teacups, yet it was of more value to me
           her that Vernon had not deceived her, and that she was out of     at one period of my life than silver and gold in pointing out,
           his hands, in the hands of some one else.                         etc.”: the conclusion was hazy, like the conception; she had
               She bit at her glove; she glanced at the concentrated eyes    her idea.
           of the publican’s family portraits, all looking as one; she no-       And in this mood she ran down-stairs and met Colonel
           ticed the empty tumbler, and went round to it and touched         De Craye on the station steps.
           it, and the silly spoon in it.                                        The bright illumination of his face was that of the confi-
               A little yielding to desperation shoots us to strange dis-    dent man confirmed in a risky guess in the crisis of doubt and
           tances!                                                           dispute.
               Vernon had asked her whether she was alone. Connecting            “Miss Middleton!” his joyful surprise predominated; the
           that inquiry, singular in itself, and singular in his manner of   pride of an accurate forecast, adding: “I am not too late to be
           putting it, with the glass of burning liquid, she repeated: “He   of service?”
           must have seen Colonel De Craye!” and she stared at the empty         She thanked him for the offer.
           glass, as at something that witnessed to something: for Vernon        “Have you dismissed the fly, Colonel De Craye?”
           was not your supple cavalier assiduously on the smirk to pin a        “I have just been getting change to pay Mr. Flitch. He
Contents




           gallantry to commonplaces. But all the doors are not open in      passed me on the road. He is interwound with our fates to a
           a young lady’s consciousness, quick of nature though she may      certainty. I had only to jump in; I knew it, and rolled along
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           434                                                                                                                              435

           like a magician commanding a genie.”                               transport, there’s the army!—but it was leagues in the rear.
               “Have I been . . .”                                            Like the footman who went to sleep after smelling fire in the
               “Not seriously, nobody doubts you being under shelter.         house, I was thinking of other things. It will serve me right to
           You will allow me to protect you? My time is yours.”               be forgotten—if I am. I’ve a curiosity to know: a remainder of
               “I was thinking of a running visit to my friend Miss           my coxcombry. Not that exactly: a wish to see the impression
           Darleton.”                                                         I made on your friend.—None at all? But any pebble casts a
               “May I venture? I had the fancy that you wished to see         ripple.”
           Miss Darleton to-day. You cannot make the journey                      “That is hardly an impression,” said Clara, pacifying her
           unescorted.”                                                       irresoluteness with this light talk.
               “Please retain the fly. Where is Willoughby?”                      “The utmost to be hoped for by men like me! I have your
               “He is in jack-boots. But may I not, Miss Middleton? I         permission?—one minute—I will get my ticket.”
           shall never be forgiven if you refuse me.”                             “Do not,” said Clara.
               “There has been searching for me?”                                 “Your man-servant entreats you!”
               “Some hallooing. But why am I rejected? Besides, I don’t           She signified a decided negative with the head, but her
           require the fly; I shall walk if I am banished. Flitch is a won-   eyes were dreamy. She breathed deep: this thing done would
           derful conjurer, but the virtue is out of him for the next four-   cut the cord. Her sensation of languor swept over her.
           and-twenty hours. And it will be an opportunity to me to               De Craye took a stride. He was accosted by one of the
           make my bow to Miss Darleton!”                                     railway-porters. Flitch’s fly was in request for a gentleman. A
               “She is rigorous on the conventionalities, Colonel De          portly old gentleman bothered about luggage appeared on
           Craye.”                                                            the landing.
               “I’ll appear before her as an ignoramus or a rebel, which-         “The gentleman can have it,” said De Craye, handing Flitch
           ever she likes best to take in leading-strings. I remember her.    his money.
           I was greatly struck by her.”                                          “Open the door.” Clara said to Flitch.
               “Upon recollection!”                                               He tugged at the handle with enthusiasm. The door was
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               “Memory didn’t happen to be handy at the first mention         open: she stepped in.
           of the lady’s name. As the general said of his ammunition and          “Then mount the box and I’ll jump up beside you,” De
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           436                                                                                                                            437

           Craye called out, after the passion of regretful astonishment        “Miss Middleton, Flitch is charioteer once more. Think
           had melted from his features.                                    of it. There’s a tide that carries him perpetually to the place
              Clara directed him to the seat fronting her; he protested     where he was cast forth, and a thread that ties us to him in
           indifference to the wet; she kept the door unshut. His temper    continuity. I have not the honour to be a friend of long stand-
           would have preferred to buffet the angry weather. The invita-    ing: one ventures on one’s devotion: it dates from the first
           tion was too sweet.                                              moment of my seeing you. Flitch is to blame, if any one.
              She heard now the bell of her own train. Driving beside       Perhaps the spell would be broken, were he reinstated in his
           the railway embankment she met the train: it was eighteen        ancient office.”
           minutes late, by her watch. And why, when it flung up its            “Perhaps it would,” said Clara, not with her best of smiles.
           whale-spouts of steam, she was not journeying in it, she could   Willoughby’s pride of relentlessness appeared to her to be
           not tell. She had acted of her free will: that she could say.    receiving a blow by rebound, and that seemed high justice.
           Vernon had not induced her to remain; assuredly her present          “I am afraid you were right; the poor fellow has no chance,”
           companion had not; and her whole heart was for flight: yet       De Craye pursued. He paused, as for decorum in the pres-
           she was driving back to the Hall, not devoid of calmness. She    ence of misfortune, and laughed sparklingly: “Unless I en-
           speculated on the circumstance enough to think herself in-       gage him, or pretend to! I verily believe that Flitch’s melan-
           comprehensible, and there left it, intent on the scene to come   choly person on the skirts of the Hall completes the picture
           with Willoughby.                                                 of the Eden within.—Why will you not put some trust in
              “I must choose a better day for London,” she remarked.        me, Miss Middleton?”
              De Craye bowed, but did not remove his eyes from her.             “But why should you not pretend to engage him then,
              “Miss Middleton, you do not trust me.”                        Colonel De Craye?”
              She answered: “Say in what way. It seems to me that I do.”        “We’ll plot it, if you like. Can you trust me for that?”
              “I may speak?”                                                    “For any act of disinterested kindness, I am sure.”
              “If it depends on my authority.”                                  “You mean it?”
              “Fully?”                                                          “Without reserve. You could talk publicly of taking him
Contents




              “Whatever you have to say. Let me stipulate, be not very      to London.”
           grave. I want cheering in wet weather.”                              “Miss Middleton, just now you were going. My arrival
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           438                                                                                                                            439

           changed your mind. You distrust me: and ought I to wonder?          Who but Willoughby stood for Pride? And who, swayed
           The wonder would be all the other way. You have not had the      by languor, had dreamed of a method that would be surest
           sort of report of me which would persuade you to confide,        and swiftest to teach him the wisdom of surrendering her?
           even in a case of extremity. I guessed you were going. Do you       “You know, Miss Middleton, I study character,” said the
           ask me how? I cannot say. Through what they call sympathy,       colonel.
           and that’s inexplicable. There’s natural sympathy, natural an-      “I see that you do,” she answered.
           tipathy. People have to live together to discover how deep it       “You intend to return?”
           is!”                                                                “Oh, decidedly.”
                Clara breathed her dumb admission of his truth.                “The day is unfavourable for travelling, I must say.”
                The fly jolted and threatened to lurch.                        “It is.”
                “Flitch, my dear man!” the colonel gave a murmuring re-        “You may count on my discretion in the fullest degree. I
           monstrance; “for,” said he to Clara, whom his apostrophe to      throw myself on your generosity when I assure you that it
           Flitch had set smiling, “we’re not safe with him, however we     was not my design to surprise a secret. I guessed the station,
           make believe, and he’ll be jerking the heart out of me before    and went there, to put myself at your disposal.”
           he has done.—But if two of us have not the misfortune to be         “Did you,” said Clara, reddening slightly, “chance to see
           united when they come to the discovery, there’s hope. That is,   Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson’s carriage pass you when you
           if one has courage and the other has wisdom. Otherwise they      drove up to the station?”
           may go to the yoke in spite of themselves. The great enemy is       De Craye had passed a carriage. “I did not see the lady.
           Pride, who has them both in a coach and drives them to the       She was in it?”
           fatal door, and the only thing to do is to knock him off his        “Yes. And therefore it is better to put discretion on one
           box while there’s a minute to spare. And as there’s no pride     side: we may be certain she saw you.”
           like the pride of possession, the deadliest wound to him is to      “But not you, Miss Middleton.”
           make that doubtful. Pride won’t be taught wisdom in any             “I prefer to think that I am seen. I have a description of
           other fashion. But one must have the courage to do it!”          courage, Colonel De Craye, when it is forced on me.”
Contents




                De Craye trifled with the window-sash, to give his words       “I have not suspected the reverse. Courage wants training,
           time to sink in solution.                                        as well as other fine capacities. Mine is often rusty and rheu-
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           440                                                                                                                             441

           matic.”                                                              “They’re feeling too much alone.”
               “I cannot hear of concealment or plotting.”                      She could not combat the remark: by her self-assurance
               “Except, pray, to advance the cause of poor Flitch!”          that she had the principle of faithfulness, she acknowledged
               “He shall be excepted.”                                       to herself the truth of it:—there is no freedom for the weak.
               The colonel screwed his head round for a glance at his        Vernon had said that once. She tried to resist the weight of it,
           coachman’s back.                                                  and her sheer inability precipitated her into a sense of pitiful
               “Perfectly guaranteed to-day!” he said of Flitch’s look of    dependence.
           solidity. “The convulsion of the elements appears to sober our       Half an hour earlier it would have been a perilous condi-
           friend; he is only dangerous in calms. Five minutes will bring    tion to be traversing in the society of a closely scanning reader
           us to the park-gates.”                                            of fair faces. Circumstances had changed. They were at the
               Clara leaned forward to gaze at the hedgeways in the          gates of the park.
           neighbourhood of the Hall strangely renewing their familiar-         “Shall I leave you?” said De Craye.
           ity with her. Both in thought and sensation she was like a           “Why should you?” she replied.
           flower beaten to earth, and she thanked her feminine mask            He bent to her gracefully.
           for not showing how nerveless and languid she was. She could         The mild subservience flattered Clara’s languor. He had
           have accused Vernon of a treacherous cunning for imposing it      not compelled her to be watchful on her guard, and she was
           on her free will to decide her fate.                              unaware that he passed it when she acquiesced to his observa-
               Involuntarily she sighed.                                     tion, “An anticipatory story is a trap to the teller.”
               “There is a train at three,” said De Craye, with splendid        “It is,” she said. She had been thinking as much.
           promptitude.                                                         He threw up his head to consult the brain comically with
               “Yes, and one at five. We dine with Mrs. Mountstuart          a dozen little blinks.
           tonight. And I have a passion for solitude! I think I was never      “No, you are right, Miss Middleton, inventing beforehand
           intended for obligations. The moment I am bound I begin to        never prospers; ‘t is a way to trip our own cleverness. Truth
           brood on freedom.”                                                and mother-wit are the best counsellors: and as you are the
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               “Ladies who say that, Miss Middleton!. . .”                   former, I’ll try to act up to the character you assign me.”
               “What of them?”                                                  Some tangle, more prospective than present, seemed to be
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           442                                                                                                                             443

           about her as she reflected. But her intention being to speak to
           Willoughby without subterfuge, she was grateful to her com-
           panion for not tempting her to swerve. No one could doubt
           his talent for elegant fibbing, and she was in the humour
           both to admire and adopt the art, so she was glad to be res-
           cued from herself. How mother-wit was to second truth she
           did not inquire, and as she did not happen to be thinking of
           Crossjay, she was not troubled by having to consider how truth
           and his tale of the morning would be likely to harmonize.
              Driving down the park, she had full occupation in ques-
           tioning whether her return would be pleasing to Vernon, who                             Chapter 29.
           was the virtual cause of it, though he had done so little to            In which the sensitiveness of Sir Willoughby is explained:
           promote it: so little that she really doubted his pleasure in                     and he receives much instruction.
           seeing her return.
                                                                                 THE Hall-dock over the stables was then striking twelve.
                                                                             It was the hour for her flight to be made known, and Clara
                                                                             sat in a turmoil of dim apprehension that prepared her ner-
                                                                             vous frame for a painful blush on her being asked by Colonel
                                                                             De Craye whether she had set her watch correctly. He must,
                                                                             she understood, have seen through her at the breakfast table:
                                                                             and was she not cruelly indebted to him for her evasion of
                                                                             Willoughby? Such perspicacity of vision distressed and fright-
                                                                             ened her; at the same time she was obliged to acknowledge
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                                                                             that he had not presumed on it. Her dignity was in no way
                                                                             the worse for him. But it had been at a man’s mercy, and there
                                                                             was the affliction.
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           444                                                                                                                              445

               She jumped from the fly as if she were leaving danger              “She has just gone into the laboratory. I told her Sir
           behind. She could at the moment have greeted Willoughby            Willoughby wasn’t there.”
           with a conventionally friendly smile. The doors were thrown            “Tell me, Crossjay, had she a letter?”
           open and young Crossjay flew out to her. He hung and danced            “She had something.”
           on her hand, pressed the hand to his mouth, hardly believing           “Run: say I am here; I want the letter, it is mine.”
           that he saw and touched her, and in a lingo of dashes and              Crossjay sprang away and plunged into the arms of Sir
           asterisks related how Sir Willoughby had found him under           Willoughby.
           the boathouse eaves and pumped him, and had been sent off              “One has to catch the fellow like a football,” exclaimed the
           to Hoppner’s farm, where there was a sick child, and on along      injured gentleman, doubled across the boy and holding him
           the road to a labourer’s cottage: “For I said you’re so kind to    fast, that he might have an object to trifle with, to give him-
           poor people, Miss Middleton; that’s true, now that is true.        self countenance: he needed it. “Clara, you have not been ex-
           And I said you wouldn’t have me with you for fear of conta-        posed to the weather?”
           gion!” This was what she had feared.                                   “Hardly at all.”
               “Every crack and bang in a boys vocabulary,” remarked              “I rejoice. You found shelter?”
           the colonel, listening to him after he had paid Flitch.                “Yes.”
               The latter touched his hat till he had drawn attention to          “In one of the cottages?”
           himself, when he exclaimed, with rosy melancholy: “Ah! my              “Not in a cottage; but I was perfectly sheltered. Colonel
           lady, ah! colonel, if ever I lives to drink some of the old port   De Craye passed a fly before he met me . . .”
           wine in the old Hall at Christmastide!” Their healths would            “Flitch again!” ejaculated the colonel.
           on that occasion be drunk, it was implied. He threw up his             “Yes, you have luck, you have luck,” Willoughby addressed
           eyes at the windows, humped his body and drove away.               him, still clutching Crossjay and treating his tugs to get loose
               “Then Mr. Whitford has not come back?” said Clara to           as an invitation to caresses. But the foil barely concealed his
           Crossjay.                                                          livid perturbation.
               “No, Miss Middleton. Sir Willoughby has, and he’s up-              “Stay by me, sir,” he said at last sharply to Crossjay, and
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           stairs in his room dressing.”                                      Clara touched the boy’s shoulder in admonishment of him.
               “Have you seen Barclay?”                                           She turned to the colonel as they stepped into the hall: “I
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           446                                                                                                                             447

           have not thanked you, Colonel De Craye.” She dropped her          lowed, and he encountered De Craye coming out, but passed
           voice to its lowest: “A letter in my handwriting in the labora-   him in silence.
           tory.”                                                                Crossjay was rangeing and peering all over the room.
              Crossjay cried aloud with pain.                                Willoughby went to his desk and the battery-table and the
              “I have you!” Willoughby rallied him with a laugh not          mantelpiece. He found no letter. Barclay had undoubtedly
           unlike the squeak of his victim.                                  informed him that she had left a letter for him in the labora-
              “You squeeze awfully hard, sir.”                               tory, by order of her mistress after breakfast.
              “Why, you milksop!”                                                He hurried out and ran upstairs in time to see De Craye
              “Am I! But I want to get a book.”                              and Barclay breaking a conference.
              “Where is the book?”                                               He beckoned to her. The maid lengthened her upper lip
              “In the laboratory.”                                           and beat her dress down smooth: signs of the apprehension of
              Colonel De Craye, sauntering by the laboratory door, sung      a crisis and of the getting ready for action.
           out: “I’ll fetch you your book. What is it? EARLY NAVI-               “My mistress’s bell has just rung, Sir Willoughby.”
           GATORS? INFANT HYMNS? I think my cigar-case is in                     “You had a letter for me.”
           here.”                                                                “I said . . .”
              “Barclay speaks of a letter for me,” Willoughby said to            “You said when I met you at the foot of the stairs that you
           Clara, “marked to be delivered to me at noon!”                    had left a letter for me in the laboratory.”
              “In case of my not being back earlier; it was written to           “It is lying on my mistress’s toilet-table.”
           avert anxiety,” she replied.                                          “Get it.”
              “You are very good.”                                               Barclay swept round with another of her demure grimaces.
              “Oh, good! Call me anything but good. Here are the la-         It was apparently necessary with her that she should talk to
           dies. Dear ladies!” Clara swam to meet them as they issued        herself in this public manner.
           from a morning-room into the hall, and interjections reigned          Willoughby waited for her; but there was no reappear-
           for a couple of minutes.                                          ance of the maid.
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              Willoughby relinquished his grasp of Crossjay, who darted          Struck by the ridicule of his posture of expectation, and
           instantaneously at an angle to the laboratory, whither he fol-    of his whole behaviour, he went to his bedroom suite, shut
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           448                                                                                                                             449

           himself in, and paced the chambers, amazed at the creature        him to stretch out hands to protect. There the poor little
           he had become. Agitated like the commonest of wretches,           loveable creature ran for any mouth to blow on; and
           destitute of self-control, not able to preserve a decent mask,    frostnipped and bruised, it cried to him, and he was of no
           be, accustomed to inflict these emotions and tremours upon        avail! Must we not detest a world that so treats us? We loathe
           others, was at once the puppet and dupe of an intriguing girl.    it the more, by the measure of our contempt for them, when
           His very stature seemed lessened. The glass did not say so,       we have made the people within the shadow-circle of our per-
           but the shrunken heart within him did, and wailfully too.         son slavish.
           Her compunction—’Call me anything but good’—coming                    And he had been once a young prince in popularity: the
           after her return to the Hall beside De Craye, and after the       world had been his possession. Clara’s treatment of him was a
           visible passage of a secret between them in his presence, was a   robbery of land and subjects. His grander dream had been a
           confession: it blew at him with the fury of a furnace-blast in    marriage with a lady of so glowing a fame for beauty and
           his face. Egoist agony wrung the outcry from him that dup-        attachment to her lord that the world perforce must take her
           ery is a more blessed condition. He desired to be deceived.       for witness to merits which would silence detraction and al-
               He could desire such a thing only in a temporary trans-       most, not quite (it was undesireable), extinguish envy. But for
           port; for above all he desired that no one should know of his     the nature of women his dream would have been realized. He
           being deceived; and were he a dupe the deceiver would know        could not bring himself to denounce Fortune. It had cost
           it, and her accomplice would know it, and the world would         him a grievous pang to tell Horace De Craye he was lucky; he
           soon know of it: that world against whose tongue he stood         had been educated in the belief that Fortune specially prized
           defenceless. Within the shadow of his presence he compressed      and cherished little Willoughby: hence of necessity his male-
           opinion, as a strong frost binds the springs of earth, but be-    dictions fell upon women, or he would have forfeited the last
           yond it his shivering sensitiveness ran about in dread of a       blanket of a dream warm as poets revel in.
           stripping in a wintry atmosphere. This was the ground of his          But if Clara deceived him, he inspired her with timidity.
           hatred of the world: it was an appalling fear on behalf of his    There was matter in that to make him wish to be deceived.
           naked eidolon, the tender infant Self swaddled in his name        She had not looked him much in the face: she had not crossed
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           before the world, for which he felt as the most highly civi-      his eyes: she had looked deliberately downward, keeping her
           lized of men alone can feel, and which it was impossible for      head up, to preserve an exterior pride. The attitude had its
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           450                                                                                                                              451

           bewitchingness: the girl’s physical pride of stature scorning to   tortures on her in a bitter semblance of bodily worship, and
           bend under a load of conscious guilt, had a certain black-         satiated, then comfortably to spurn. He found her protected
           angel beauty for which he felt a hugging hatred: and accord-       by Barclay on the stairs.
           ing to his policy when these fits of amorous meditation seized         “That letter for me?” he said.
           him, he burst from the present one in the mood of his more             “I think I told you, Willoughby, there was a letter I left
           favourable conception of Clara, and sought her out.                with Barclay to reassure you in case of my not returning early,”
               The quality of the mood of hugging hatred is, that if you      said Clara. “It was unnecessary for her to deliver it.”
           are disallowed the hug, you do not hate the fiercer.                   “Indeed? But any letter, any writing of yours, and from
               Contrariwise the prescription of a decorous distance of two    you to me! You have it still?”
           feet ten inches, which is by measurement the delimitation              “No, I have destroyed it.”
           exacted of a rightly respectful deportment, has this miracu-           “That was wrong.”
           lous effect on the great creature man, or often it has: that his       “It could not have given you pleasure.”
           peculiar hatred returns to the reluctant admiration begetting          “My dear Clara, one line from you!”
           it, and his passion for the hug falls prostrate as one of the          “There were but three.”
           Faithful before the shrine; he is reduced to worship by fast-          Barclay stood sucking her lips. A maid in the secrets of
           ing.                                                               her mistress is a purchaseable maid, for if she will take a bribe
               (For these mysteries, consult the sublime chapter in the       with her right hand she will with her left; all that has to be
           GREAT BOOK, tile Seventy-first on LOVE, wherein noth-              calculated is the nature and amount of the bribe: such was
           ing is written, but the Reader receives a Lanthorn, a Powder-      the speculation indulged by Sir Willoughby, and he shrank
           cask and a Pick-axe, and therewith pursues his yellow-dusk-        from the thought and declined to know more than that he
           ing path across the rubble of preceding excavators in the soli-    was on a volcanic hillside where a thin crust quaked over lava.
           tary quarry: a yet more instructive passage than the               This was a new condition with him, representing Clara’s gain
           overscrawled Seventieth, or French Section, whence the chap-       in their combat. Clara did not fear his questioning so much
           ter opens, and where hitherto the polite world has halted.)        as he feared her candour.
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               The hurry of the hero is on us, we have no time to spare           Mutually timid, they were of course formally polite, and
           for mining works: he hurried to catch her alone, to wreak his      no plain speaking could have told one another more distinctly
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           452                                                                                                                               453

           that each was defensive. Clara stood pledged to the fib; packed,    something besides.
           scaled and posted; and he had only to ask to have it, suppos-          “Well! here you are, safe; I have you!” said he, with courtly
           ing that he asked with a voice not exactly peremptory.              exultation: “and that is better than your handwriting. I have
               She said in her heart, “It is your fault: you are relentless    been all over the country after you.”
           and you would ruin Crossjay to punish him for devoting him-            “Why did you? We are not in a barbarous land,” said Clara.
           self to me, like the poor thoughtless boy he is! and so I am           “Crossjay talks of your visiting a sick child, my love:—you
           bound in honour to do my utmost for him.”                           have changed your dress?”
               The reciprocal devotedness, moreover, served two purposes:         “You see.”
           it preserved her from brooding on the humiliation of her lame          “The boy declared you were going to that farm of
           flight, and flutter back, and it quieted her mind in regard to      Hoppner’s, and some cottage. I met at my gates a tramping
           the precipitate intimacy of her relations with Colonel De           vagabond who swore to seeing you and the boy in a totally
           Craye. Willoughby’s boast of his implacable character was to        contrary direction.”
           blame. She was at war with him, and she was compelled to               “Did you give him money?”
           put the case in that light. Crossjay must be shielded from one         “I fancy so.”
           who could not spare an offender, so Colonel De Craye quite             “Then he was paid for having seen me.”
           naturally was called on for his help, and the colonel’s dexter-        Willoughby tossed his head: it might be as she suggested;
           ous aid appeared to her more admirable than alarming.               beggars are liars.
               Nevertheless, she would not have answered a direct ques-           “But who sheltered you, my dear Clara? You had not been
           tion falsely. She was for the fib, but not the lie; at a word she   heard of at Hoppner’s.”
           could be disdainful of subterfuges. Her look said that.                “The people have been indemnified for their pains. To
           Willoughby perceived it. She had written him a letter of three      pay them more would be to spoil them. You disperse money
           lines: “There were but three”: and she had destroyed the let-       too liberally. There was no fever in the place. Who could have
           ter. Something perchance was repented by her? Then she had          anticipated such a downpour! I want to consult Miss Dale on
           done him an injury! Between his wrath at the suspicion of an        the important theme of a dress I think of wearing at Mrs
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           injury, and the prudence enjoined by his abject coveting of         Mountstuart’s to-night.”
           her, he consented to be fooled for the sake of vengeance, and          “Do. She is unerring.”
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           454                                                                                                                               455

               “She has excellent taste.”                                      shown by the fact that he had missed his train in town, for he
               “She dresses very simply herself.”                              had not arrived; nothing had been seen of him. She cited
               “But it becomes her. She is one of the few women whom I         Vernon Whitford for her authority that the train had been
           feel I could not improve with a touch.”                             inspected, and the platform scoured to find the professor.
               “She has judgement.”                                                “And so,” said she, “I drove home your Green Man to dry
               He reflected and repeated his encomium.                         him; he was wet through and chattering; the man was exactly
               The shadow of a dimple in Clara’s cheek awakened him to         like a skeleton wrapped in a sponge, and if he escapes a cold
           the idea that she had struck him somewhere: and certainly he        he must be as invulnerable as he boasts himself. These ath-
           would never again be able to put up the fiction of her jeal-        letes are terrible boasters.”
           ousy of Laetitia. What, then, could be this girl’s motive for           “They climb their Alps to crow,” said Clara, excited by
           praying to be released? The interrogation humbled him: he           her apprehension that Mrs. Mountstuart would speak of hav-
           fled from the answer.                                               ing seen the colonel near the station.
               Willoughby went in search of De Craye. That sprightly               There was a laugh, and Colonel De Craye laughed loudly
           intriguer had no intention to let himself be caught solus. He       as it flashed through him that a quick-witted impressionable
           was undiscoverable until the assembly sounded, when Clara           girl like Miss Middleton must, before his arrival at the Hall,
           dropped a public word or two, and he spoke in perfect har-          have speculated on such obdurate clay as Vernon Whitford
           mony with her. After that, he gave his company to Willoughby        was, with humourous despair at his uselessness to her. Glanc-
           for an hour at billiards, and was well beaten.                      ing round, he saw Vernon standing fixed in a stare at the
               The announcement of a visit of Mrs. Mountstuart                 young lady.
           Jenkinson took the gentlemen to the drawing-room, rather                “You heard that, Whitford?” he said, and Clara’s face be-
           suspecting that something stood in the way of her dinner-           tokening an extremer contrition than he thought was de-
           party. As it happened, she was lamenting only the loss of one       manded, the colonel rallied the Alpine climber for striving to
           of the jewels of the party: to wit, the great Professor Crooklyn,   be the tallest of them—Signor Excelsior!—and described these
           invited to meet Dr. Middleton at her table; and she related         conquerors of mountains pancaked on the rocks in desperate
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           how she had driven to the station by appointment, the pro-          embraces, bleached here, burned there, barked all over, all to
           fessor being notoriously a bother-headed traveller: as was          be able to say they had been up “so high”—had conquered
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           456                                                                                                                             457

           another mountain! He was extravagantly funny and self-sat-        tion to it, slightly wondering at his impatience. She departed
           isfied: a conqueror of the sex having such different rewards of   to meet an afternoon train on the chance that it would land
           enterprise.                                                       the professor. “But tell Dr. Middleton,” said she, “I fear I shall
               Vernon recovered in time to accept the absurdities heaped     have no one worthy of him! And,” she added to Willoughby,
           on him.                                                           as she walked out to her carriage, “I shall expect you to do the
               “Climbing peaks won’t compare with hunting a wriggler,”       great-gunnery talk at table.”
           said he.                                                              “Miss Dale keeps it up with him best,” said Willoughby.
               His allusion to the incessant pursuit of young Crossjay to        “She does everything best! But my dinner-table is involved,
           pin him to lessons was appreciated.                               and I cannot count on a young woman to talk across it. I
               Clara felt the thread of the look he cast from herself to     would hire a lion of a menagerie, if one were handy, rather
           Colonel De Craye. She was helpless, if he chose to misjudge       than have a famous scholar at my table, unsupported by an-
           her. Colonel De Craye did not!                                    other famous scholar. Doctor Middleton would ride down a
               Crossjay had the misfortune to enter the drawing-room         duke when the wine is in him. He will terrify my poor flock.
           while Mrs. Mountstuart was compassionating Vernon for his         The truth is, we can’t leaven him: I foresee undigested lumps
           ducking in pursuit of the wriggler; which De Craye likened        of conversation, unless you devote yourself.”
           to “going through the river after his eel:” and immediately           “I will devote myself,” said Willoughby.
           there was a cross-questioning of the boy between De Craye             “I can calculate on Colonel De Craye and our porcelain
           and Willoughby on the subject of his latest truancy, each         beauty for any quantity of sparkles, if you promise that. They
           gentleman trying to run him down in a palpable fib. They          play well together. You are not to be one of the gods to-night,
           were succeeding brilliantly when Vernon put a stop to it by       but a kind of Jupiter’s cup-bearer;—Juno’s, if you like; and
           marching him off to hard labour. Mrs. Mountstuart was led         Lady Busshe and Lady Culmer, and all your admirers shall
           away to inspect the beautiful porcelain service, the present of   know subsequently what you have done. You see my alarm. I
           Lady Busshe. “Porcelain again!” she said to Willoughby, and       certainly did not rank Professor Crooklyn among the possi-
           would have signalled to the “dainty rogue” to come with them,     bly faithless, or I never would have ventured on Doctor
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           had not Clara been leaning over to Laetitia, talking to her in    Middleton at my table. My dinner-parties have hitherto been
           an attitude too graceful to be disturbed. She called his atten-   all successes. Naturally I feel the greater anxiety about this
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           458                                                                                                                              459

           one. For a single failure is all the more conspicuous. The ex-     ness would animate her to take aim at him once more. And
           ception is everlastingly cited! It is not so much what people      then was the time for her chastisement.
           say, but my own sentiments. I hate to fail. However, if you are        A visit to Dr. Middleton in the library satisfied him that
           true, we may do.”                                                  she had not been renewing her entreaties to leave Patterne.
               “Whenever the great gun goes off I will fall on my face,       No, the miserable coquette had now her pastime, and was
           madam!”                                                            content to stay. Deceit was in the air: he heard the sound of
               “Something of that sort,” said the dame, smiling, and leav-    the shuttle of deceit without seeing it; but, on the whole,
           ing him to reflect on the egoism of women. For the sake of         mindful of what he had dreaded during the hours of her ab-
           her dinner-party he was to be a cipher in attendance on Dr.        sence, he was rather flattered, witheringly flattered. What was
           Middleton, and Clara and De Craye were to be encouraged            it that he had dreaded? Nothing less than news of her run-
           in sparkling together! And it happened that he particularly        ning away. Indeed a silly fancy, a lover’s fancy! yet it had led
           wished to shine. The admiration of his county made him be-         him so far as to suspect, after parting with De Craye in the
           lieve he had a flavour in general society that was not yet dis-    rain, that his friend and his bride were in collusion, and that
           tinguished by his bride, and he was to relinquish his oppor-       he should not see them again. He had actually shouted on the
           tunity in order to please Mrs. Mountstuart! Had she been in        rainy road the theatric call “Fooled!” one of the stage-cries
           the pay of his rival, she could not have stipulated for more.      which are cries of nature! particularly the cry of nature with
               He remembered young Crossjay’s instant quietude, after         men who have driven other men to the cry.
           struggling in his grasp, when Clara laid her hand on the boy:          Constantia Durham had taught him to believe women
           and from that infinitesimal circumstance he deduced the boy’s      capable of explosions of treason at half a minute’s notice. And
           perception of a differing between himself and his bride, and a     strangely, to prove that women are all of a pack, she had worn
           transfer of Crossjay’s allegiance from him to her. She shone;      exactly the same placidity of countenance just before she fled,
           she had the gift of female beauty; the boy was attracted to it.    as Clara yesterday and to-day; no nervousness, no flushes, no
           That boy must be made to feel his treason. But the point of        twitches of the brows, but smoothness, ease of manner—an
           the cogitation was, that similarly were Clara to see her affi-     elegant sisterliness, one might almost say: as if the creature
Contents




           anced shining, as shine he could when lighted up by admir-         had found a midway and borderline to walk on between cru-
           ers, there was the probability that the sensation of her little-   elty and kindness, and between repulsion and attraction; so
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           460                                                                                                                               461

           that up to the verge of her breath she did forcefully attract,      he loved likewise and more, he would have been hangdog ab-
           repelling at one foot’s length with her armour of chill seren-      ject.
           ity. Not with any disdain, with no passion: such a line as she          As for De Craye, Willoughby recollected his own exploits
           herself pursued she indicated to him on a neighbouring par-         too proudly to put his trust in a man. That fatal conjunction
           allel. The passion in her was like a place of waves evaporated      of temper and policy had utterly thrown him off his guard, or
           to a crust of salt. Clara’s resemblance to Constantia in this       he would not have trusted the fellow even in the first hour of
           instance was ominous. For him whose tragic privilege it had         his acquaintance with Clara. But he had wished her to be
           been to fold each of them in his arms, and weigh on their           amused while he wove his plans to retain her at the Hall:—
           eyelids, and see the dissolving mist-deeps in their eyes, it was    partly imagining that she would weary of his neglect: vile
           horrible. Once more the comparison overcame him. Constantia         delusion! In truth he should have given festivities, he should
           he could condemn for revealing too much to his manly sight:         have been the sun of a circle, and have revealed himself to her
           she had met him almost half-way: well, that was complimen-          in his more dazzling form. He went near to calling himself
           tary and sanguine: but her frankness was a baldness often           foolish after the tremendous reverberation of “Fooled!” had
           rendering it doubtful which of the two, lady or gentleman,          ceased to shake him.
           was the object of the chase—an extreme perplexity to his                How behave? It slapped the poor gentleman’s pride in the
           manly soul. Now Clara’s inner spirit was shyer, shy as a doe        face to ask. A private talk with her would rouse her to renew
           down those rose-tinged abysses; she allured both the lover          her supplications. He saw them flickering behind the girl’s
           and the hunter; forests of heavenliness were in her flitting        transparent calmness. That calmness really drew its dead ivory
           eyes. Here the difference of these fair women made his present      hue from the suppression of them: something as much he
           fate an intolerable anguish. For if Constantia was like certain     guessed; and he was not sure either of his temper or his policy
           of the ladies whom he had rendered unhappy, triumphed over,         if he should hear her repeat her profane request.
           as it is queerly called, Clara was not. Her individuality as a          An impulse to address himself to Vernon and discourse
           woman was a thing he had to bow to. It was impossible to roll       with him jocularly on the childish whim of a young lady,
           her up in the sex and bestow a kick on the travelling bundle.       moved perhaps by some whiff of jealousy, to shun the yoke,
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           Hence he loved her, though she hurt him. Hence his wretch-          was checked. He had always taken so superior a pose with
           edness, and but for the hearty sincerity of his faith in the Self   Vernon that he could not abandon it for a moment: on such
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           a subject too! Besides, Vernon was one of your men who en-         had not decreed that he should find consolation in adoring
           tertain the ideas about women of fellows that have never con-      her. Nor could the temptings of prudent counsel in his head
           quered one: or only one, we will say in his case, knowing his      induce him to run the risk of such a total turnover as the
           secret history; and that one no flag to boast of. Densely igno-    incurring of Laetitia’s pity of himself by confiding in her. He
           rant of the sex, his nincompoopish idealizations, at other times   checked that impulse also, and more sovereignly. For him to
           preposterous, would now be annoying. He would probably             be pitied by Laetitia seemed an upsetting of the scheme of
           presume on Clara’s inconceivable lapse of dignity to read his      Providence. Providence, otherwise the discriminating dispen-
           master a lecture: he was quite equal to a philippic upon           sation of the good things of life, had made him the beacon,
           woman’s rights. This man had not been afraid to say that he        her the bird: she was really the last person to whom he could
           talked common sense to women. He was an example of the             unbosom. The idea of his being in a position that suggested
           consequence!                                                       his doing so, thrilled him with fits of rage; and it appalled
               Another result was that Vernon did not talk sense to men.      him. There appeared to be another Power. The same which
           Willoughby’s wrath at Clara’s exposure of him to his cousin        had humiliated him once was menacing him anew. For it could
           dismissed the proposal of a colloquy so likely to sting his        not be Providence, whose favourite he had ever been. We must
           temper, and so certain to diminish his loftiness. Unwilling to     have a couple of Powers to account for discomfort when Ego-
           speak to anybody, he was isolated, yet consciously begirt by       ism is the kernel of our religion. Benevolence had singled him
           the mysterious action going on all over the house, from Clara      for uncommon benefits: malignancy was at work to rob him
           and De Craye to Laetitia and young Crossjay, down to Barclay       of them. And you think well of the world, do you!
           the maid. His blind sensitiveness felt as we may suppose a             Of necessity he associated Clara with the darker Power
           spider to feel when plucked from his own web and set in the        pointing the knife at the quick of his pride. Still, he would
           centre of another’s. Laetitia looked her share in the mystery.     have raised her weeping: he would have stanched her wounds
           A burden was on her eyelashes. How she could have come to          bleeding: he had an infinite thirst for her misery, that he
           any suspicion of the circumstances, he was unable to imagine.      might ease his heart of its charitable love. Or let her commit
           Her intense personal sympathy, it might be; he thought so          herself, and be cast off Only she must commit herself glar-
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           with some gentle pity for her—of the paternal pat-back order       ingly, and be cast off by the world as well. Contemplating her
           of pity. She adored him, by decree of Venus; and the Goddess       in the form of a discarded weed, he had a catch of the breath:
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           she was fair. He implored his Power that Horace De Craye           the fellow was here at his regular hour for lessons, and were
           might not be the man! Why any man? An illness, fever, fire,        you?” He laid his hand on Crossjay, touching Clara’s.
           runaway horses, personal disfigurement, a laming, were suffi-          “You will remember what I told you, Crossjay,” said she,
           cient. And then a formal and noble offer on his part to keep       rising from the seat gracefully to escape the touch. “It is my
           to the engagement with the unhappy wreck: yes, and to lead         command.”
           the limping thing to the altar, if she insisted. His imagination       Crossjay frowned and puffed.
           conceived it, and the world’s applause besides.                        “But only if I’m questioned,” he said.
               Nausea, together with a sense of duty to his line, extin-          “Certainly,” she replied.
           guished that loathsome prospect of a mate, though without              “Then I question the rascal,” said Willoughby, causing a
           obscuring his chivalrous devotion to his gentleman’s word of       start. “What, sir, is your opinion of Miss Middleton in her
           honour, which remained in his mind to compliment him per-          robe of state this evening?”
           manently.                                                              “Now, the truth, Crossjay!” Clara held up a finger; and the
               On the whole, he could reasonably hope to subdue her to        boy could see she was playing at archness, but for Willoughby
           admiration. He drank a glass of champagne at his dressing; an      it was earnest. “The truth is not likely to offend you or me
           unaccustomed act, but, as he remarked casually to his man          either,” he murmured to her.
           Pollington, for whom the rest of the bottle was left, he had           “I wish him never, never, on any excuse, to speak anything
           taken no horse-exercise that day.                                  else.”
               Having to speak to Vernon on business, he went to the              “I always did think her a Beauty,” Crossjay growled. He
           schoolroom, where he discovered Clara, beautiful in full           hated the having to say it.
           evening attire, with her arm on young Crossjay’s shoulder,             “There!” exclaimed Sir Willoughby, and bent, extending
           and heard that the hard task-master had abjured Mrs.               an arm to her. “You have not suffered from the truth, my
           Mountstuart’s party, and had already excused himself, in-          Clara!”
           tending to keep Crossjay to the grindstone. Willoughby was             Her answer was: “I was thinking how he might suffer if he
           for the boy, as usual, and more sparklingly than usual. Clara      were taught to tell the reverse.”
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           looked at him in some surprise. He rallied Vernon with great           “Oh! for a fair lady!”
           zest, quite silencing him when he said: “I bear witness that           “That is the worst of teaching, Willoughby.”
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           466                                                                                                                               467

               “We’ll leave it to the fellow’s instinct; he has our blood in       “So much I know,” pursued Willoughby, refusing to be
           him. I could convince you, though, if I might cite circum-          tripped. But she rang discordantly in his ear. His “fancy that
           stances. Yes! But yes! And yes again! The entire truth cannot       he could be generous” and his “aim at being generous” had
           invariably be told. I venture to say it should not.”                met with no response. “I have given proofs,” he said, briefly, to
               “You would pardon it for the ‘fair lady’?”                      drop a subject upon which he was not permitted to dilate;
               “Applaud, my love.”                                             and he murmured, “People acquainted with me . . .!” She was
               He squeezed the hand within his arm, contemplating her.         asked if she expected him to boast of generous deeds. “From
               She was arrayed in a voluminous robe of pale blue silk          childhood!” she heard him mutter; and she said to herself,
           vapourous with trimmings of light gauze of the same hue,            “Release me, and you shall be everything!”
           gaze de Chambery, matching her fair hair and dear skin for              The unhappy gentleman ached as he talked: for with men
           the complete overthrow of less inflammable men than                 and with hosts of women to whom he was indifferent, never
           Willoughby.                                                         did he converse in this shambling, third-rate, sheepish man-
               “Clara!” sighed be.                                             ner, devoid of all highness of tone and the proper precision of
               “If so, it would really be generous,” she said, “though the     an authority. He was unable to fathom the cause of it, but
           teaching h bad.”                                                    Clara imposed it on him, and only in anger could he throw it
               “I fancy I can be generous.”                                    off. The temptation to an outburst that would flatter him
               “Do we ever know?”                                              with the sound of his authoritative voice had to be resisted on
               He turned his head to Vernon, issuing brief succinct in-        a night when he must be composed if he intended to shine, so
           structions for letters to be written, and drew her into the hall,   he merely mentioned Lady Busshe’s present, to gratify spleen
           saying: “Know? There are people who do not know them-               by preparing the ground for dissension, and prudently acqui-
           selves and as they are the majority they manufacture the axi-       esced in her anticipated slipperiness. She would rather not
           oms. And it is assumed that we have to swallow them. I may          look at it now, she said.
           observe that I think I know. I decline to be engulphed in               “Not now; very well,” said he.
           those majorities. ‘Among them, but not of them.’ I know this,           His immediate deference made her regretful. “There is
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           that my aim in life is to be generous.”                             hardly time, Willoughby.”
               “Is it not an impulse or disposition rather than an aim?”           “My dear, we shall have to express our thanks to her.”
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           468                                                                                                                               469

               “I cannot.”                                                     an adept in the art of being gracefully vanquished, and so
               His arm contracted sharply. He was obliged to be silent.        winning tender hearts.
               Dr Middleton, Laetitia, and the ladies Eleanor and Isabel           Willoughby had refreshed himself. At the back of his mind
           joining them in the hall, found two figures linked together in      there was a suspicion that his adversary would not have yielded
           a shadowy indication of halves that have fallen apart and hang      so flatly without an assurance of practically triumphing, se-
           on the last thread of junction. Willoughby retained her hand        cretly getting the better of him; and it filled him with venom
           on his arm; he held to it as the symbol of their alliance, and      for a further bout at the next opportunity: but as he had been
           oppressed the girl’s nerves by contact, with a frame labouring      sarcastic and mordant, he had shown Clara what he could do
           for breath. De Craye looked on them from overhead. The              in a way of speaking different from the lamentable cooing
           carriages were at the door, and Willoughby said, “Where’s           stuff, gasps and feeble protestations to which, he knew not
           Horace? I suppose he’s taking a final shot at his Book of An-       how, she reduced him. Sharing the opinion of his race, that
           ecdotes and neat collection of Irishisms.”                          blunt personalities, or the pugilistic form, administered di-
               “No,” replied the colonel, descending. “That’s a spring works   rectly on the salient features, are exhibitions of mastery in
           of itself and has discovered the secret of continuous motion,       such encounters, he felt strong and solid, eager for the suc-
           more’s the pity!—unless you’ll be pleased to make it of use to      cesses of the evening. De Craye was in the first carriage as
           Science.”                                                           escort to the ladies Eleanor and Isabel. Willoughby, with Clara,
               He gave a laugh of good-humour.                                 Laetitia, and Dr. Middleton, followed, all silent, for the Rev.
               “Your laughter, Horace, is a capital comment on your wit.”      Doctor was ostensibly pondering; and Willoughby was
               Willoughby said it with the air of one who has flicked a        damped a little when he unlocked his mouth to say:
           whip.                                                                   “And yet I have not observed that Colonel de Craye is
               “’Tis a genial advertisement of a vacancy,” said De Craye.      anything of a Celtiberian Egnatius meriting fustigation for
               “Precisely: three parts auctioneer to one for the property.”    an untimely display of well-whitened teeth, sir: ‘quicquid est,
               “Oh, if you have a musical quack, score it a point in his       ubicunque est, quodcunque agit, renidet:’:—ha? a morbus
           favour, Willoughby, though you don’t swallow his drug.”             neither charming nor urbane to the general eye, however con-
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               “If he means to be musical, let him keep time.”                 solatory to the actor. But this gentleman does not offend so,
               “Am I late?” said De Craye to the ladies, proving himself       or I am so strangely prepossessed in his favour as to be an
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           470                                                                                                                               471

           incompetent witness.”                                               the understandings of your audience, are empowered to com-
               Dr Middleton’s persistent ha? eh? upon an honest frown          mit assassination on your victim, the latter come under the
           of inquiry plucked an answer out of Willoughby that was             charge of unseemliness, inasmuch as they are a description of
           meant to be humourously scornful, and soon became apolo-            public suicide. Assuming, then, manslaughter to be your pas-
           getic under the Doctor’s interrogatively grasping gaze.             time, and hari-kari not to be your bent, the phrase, to escape
               “These Irishmen,” Willoughby said, “will play the profes-       criminality, must rise in you as you would have it fall on him,
           sional jester as if it were an office they were born to. We must    ex improviso. Am I right?”
           play critic now and then, otherwise we should have them del-            “I am in the habit of thinking it impossible, sir, that you
           uging us with their Joe Millerisms.”                                can be in error,” said Willoughby.
               “With their O’Millerisms you would say, perhaps?”                   Dr Middleton left it the more emphatic by saying noth-
               Willoughby did his duty to the joke, but the Rev. Doctor,       ing further.
           though he wore the paternal smile of a man that has begotten            Both his daughter and Miss Dale, who had disapproved
           hilarity, was not perfectly propitiated, and pursued: “Nor to       the waspish snap at Colonel De Craye, were in wonderment
           my apprehension is ‘the man’s laugh the comment on his wit’         of the art of speech which could so soothingly inform a gentle-
           unchallengeably new: instances of cousinship germane to the         man that his behaviour had not been gentlemanly.
           phrase will recur to you. But it has to be noted that it was a          Willoughby was damped by what he comprehended of it
           phrase of assault; it was ostentatiously battery; and I would       for a few minutes. In proportion as he realized an evening
           venture to remind you, friend, that among the elect, consid-        with his ancient admirers he was restored, and he began to
           ering that it is as fatally facile to spring the laugh upon a man   marvel greatly at his folly in not giving banquets and Balls,
           as to deprive him of his life, considering that we have only to     instead of making a solitude about himself and his bride. For
           condescend to the weapon, and that the more popular neces-          solitude, thought he, is good for the man, the man being a
           sarily the more murderous that weapon is,—among the elect,          creature consumed by passion; woman’s love, on the contrary,
           to which it is your distinction to aspire to belong, the rule       will only be nourished by the reflex light she catches of you
           holds to abstain from any employment of the obvious, the            in the eyes of others, she having no passion of her own, but
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           percoct, and likewise, for your own sake, from the epitonic,        simply an instinct driving her to attach herself to whatsoever
           the overstrained; for if the former, by readily assimilating with   is most largely admired, most shining. So thinking, he deter-
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           472                                                                                                                             473

           mined to change his course of conduct, and he was happier.
           In the first gush of our wisdom drawn directly from experi-
           ence there is a mental intoxication that cancels the old world
           and establishes a new one, not allowing us to ask whether it is
           too late.




                                                                                                   Chapter 30.
                                                                                       Treating of the dinner-party at Mrs. Mountstuart
                                                                                                         Jenkinson’s.

                                                                                Vernon and young Crossjay had tolerably steady work to-
                                                                             gether for a couple of hours, varied by the arrival of a plate of
                                                                             meat on a tray for the master, and some interrogations put to
                                                                             him from time to time by the boy in reference to Miss
                                                                             Middleton. Crossjay made the discovery that if he abstained
                                                                             from alluding to Miss Middleton’s beauty he might water his
                                                                             dusty path with her name nearly as much as he liked. Men-
                                                                             tion of her beauty incurred a reprimand. On the first occa-
                                                                             sion his master was wistful. “Isn’t she glorious!” Crossjay fan-
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                                                                             cied he had started a sovereign receipt for blessed deviations.
                                                                             He tried it again, but paedagogue-thunder broke over his head.
                                                                                “Yes, only I can’t understand what she means, Mr.
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           474                                                                                                                              475

           Whitford,” he excused himself “First I was not to tell; I know     says something funny he ducks and seems to be setting to his
           I wasn’t, because she said so; she quite as good as said so. Her   partner. I should like to be as clever as her father. That is a
           last words were: ‘Mind, Crossjay, you know nothing about           clever man. I dare say Colonel De Craye will dance with her
           me’, when I stuck to that beast of a tramp, who’s a ‘walking       tonight. I wish I was there.”
           moral,’ and gets money out of people by snuffling it.”                “It’s a dinner-party, not a dance,” Vernon forced himself
               “Attend to your lesson, or you’ll be one,” said Vernon.        to say, to dispel that ugly vision.
               “Yes, but, Mr. Whitford, now I am to tell. I’m to answer          “Isn’t it, sir? I thought they danced after dinner-parties,
           straight out to every question.”                                   Mr. Whitford, have you ever seen her run?”
               “Miss Middleton is anxious that you should be truthful.”          Vernon pointed him to his task.
               “Yes; but in the morning she told me not to tell.”                They were silent for a lengthened period.
               “She was in a hurry. She has it on her conscience that you        “But does Miss Middleton mean me to speak out if Sir
           may have misunderstood her, and she wishes you never to be         Willoughby asks me?” said Crossjay.
           guilty of an untruth, least of all on her account.”                   “Certainly. You needn’t make much of it. All’s plain and
               Crossjay committed an unspoken resolution to the air in a      simple.”
           violent sigh: “Ah!” and said: “If I were sure!”                       “But I’m positive, Mr. Whitford, he wasn’t to hear of her
               “Do as she bids you, my boy.”                                  going to the post-office with me before breakfast. And how
               “But I don’t know what it is she wants.”                       did Colonel De Craye find her and bring her back, with that
               “Hold to her last words to you.”                               old Flitch? He’s a man and can go where he pleases, and I’d
               “So I do. If she told me to run till I dropped, on I’d go.”    have found her, too, give me the chance. You know. I’m fond
               “She told you to study your lessons; do that.”                 of Miss Dale, but she—I’m very fond of her—but you can’t
               Crossjay buckled to his book, invigorated by an imagina-       think she’s a girl as well. And about Miss Dale, when she says
           tion of his liege lady on the page.                                a thing, there it is, clear. But Miss Middleton has a lot of
               After a studious interval, until the impression of his lady    meanings. Never mind; I go by what’s inside, and I’m pretty
           had subsided, he resumed: “She’s so funny. She’s just like a       sure to please her.”
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           girl, and then she’s a lady, too. She’s my idea of a princess.        “Take your chin off your hand and your elbow off the
           And Colonel De Craye! Wasn’t he taught dancing! When he            book, and fix yourself,” said Vernon, wrestling with the se-
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           476                                                                                                                               477

           duction of Crossjay’s idolatry, for Miss Middleton’s appear-        deal of a situation shrewd as any that can happen to her sex in
           ance had been preternaturally sweet on her departure, and           civilized life. But he was compelled to think of her extrava-
           the next pleasure to seeing her was hearing of her from the         gantly, and he leaned a little to the discrediting of her, be-
           lips of this passionate young poet.                                 cause her actual image ummanned him and was unbearable;
               “Remember that you please her by speaking truth,” Vernon        and to say at the end of it: “She is too beautiful! whatever she
           added, and laid himself open to questions upon the truth, by        does is best,” smoothed away the wrong he did her. Had it
           which he learnt, with a perplexed sense of envy and sympa-          been in his power he would have thought of her in the ab-
           thy, that the boy’s idea of truth strongly approximated to his      stract—the stage contiguous to that which he adopted: but
           conception of what should be agreeable to Miss Middleton.           the attempt was luckless; the Stagyrite would have faded in
               He was lonely, bereft of the bard, when he had tucked           it. What philosopher could have set down that face of sun
           Crossjay up in his bed and left him. Books he could not read;       and breeze and nymph in shadow as a point in a problem?
           thoughts were disturbing. A seat in the library and a stupid            The library door was opened at midnight by Miss Dale.
           stare helped to pass the hours, and but for the spot of sadness     She dosed it quietly. “You are not working, Mr. Whitford? I
           moving meditation in spite of his effort to stun himself, he        fancied you would wish to hear of the evening. Professor
           would have borne a happy resemblance to an idiot in the sun.        Crooklyn arrived after all! Mrs. Mountstuart is bewildered:
           He had verily no command of his reason. She was too beauti-         she says she expected you, and that you did not excuse your-
           ful! Whatever she did was best. That was the refrain of the         self to her, and she cannot comprehend, et caetera. That is to
           fountain-song in him; the burden being her whims, varia-            say, she chooses bewilderment to indulge in the exclamatory.
           tions, inconsistencies, wiles; her tremblings between good and      She must be very much annoyed. The professor did come by
           naughty, that might be stamped to noble or to terrible; her         the train she drove to meet!”
           sincereness, her duplicity, her courage, cowardice, possibilities       “I thought it probable,” said Vernon.
           for heroism and for treachery. By dint of dwelling on the               “He had to remain a couple of hours at the Railway Inn;
           theme, he magnified the young lady to extraordinary stature.        no conveyance was to be found for him. He thinks he has
           And he had sense enough to own that her character was yet           caught a cold, and cannot stifle his fretfulness about it. He
Contents




           liquid in the mould, and that she was a creature of only natu-      may be as learned as Doctor Middleton; he has not the same
           rally youthful wildness provoked to freakishness by the or-         happy constitution. Nothing more unfortunate could have
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           478                                                                                                                                479

           occurred; he spoilt the party. Mrs. Mountstuart tried petting           “Did she betray it?”
           him, which drew attention to him, and put us all in his key             “No.”
           for several awkward minutes, more than once. She lost her               “Did Willoughby look at her?”
           head; she was unlike herself I may be presumptuous in criti-            “Without suspicion then.”
           cizing her, but should not the president of a dinner-table              “Then?”
           treat it like a battlefield, and let the guest that sinks descend,      “Colonel De Craye was diverting us, and he was very amus-
           and not allow the voice of a discordant, however illustrious, to     ing. Mrs. Mountstuart told him afterward that he ought to
           rule it? Of course, it is when I see failures that I fancy I could   be paid salvage for saving the wreck of her party. Sir
           manage so well: comparison is prudently reserved in the other        Willoughby was a little too cynical; he talked well; what he
           cases. I am a daring critic, no doubt, because I know I shall        said was good, but it was not good-humoured; he has not the
           never be tried by experiment. I have no ambition to be tried.”       reckless indifference of Colonel De Craye to uttering non-
               She did not notice a smile of Vernon’s, and continued:           sense that amusement may come of it. And in the drawing-
           “Mrs Mountstuart gave him the lead upon any subject he               room he lost such gaiety as he had. I was close to Mrs.
           chose. I thought the professor never would have ceased talk-         Mountstuart when Professor Crooklyn approached her and
           ing of a young lady who had been at the inn before him drink-        spoke in my hearing of that gentleman and that young lady.
           ing hot brandy and water with a gentleman!”                          They were, you could see by his nods, Colonel De Craye and
               “How did he hear of that?” cried Vernon, roused by the           Miss Middleton.”
           malignity of the Fates.                                                 “And she at once mentioned it to Willoughby?”
               “From the landlady, trying to comfort him. And a story of           “Colonel De Craye gave her no chance, if she sought it.
           her lending shoes and stockings while those of the young lady        He courted her profusely. Behind his rattle he must have
           were drying. He has the dreadful snappish humourous way              brains. It ran in all directions to entertain her and her circle.”
           of recounting which impresses it; the table took up the sub-            “Willoughby knows nothing?”
           ject of this remarkable young lady, and whether she was a               “I cannot judge. He stood with Mrs. Mountstuart a minute
           lady of the neighbourhood, and who she could be that went            as we were taking leave. She looked strange. I heard her say:
Contents




           abroad on foot in heavy rain. It was painful to me; I knew           ‘The rogue!’ He laughed. She lifted her shoulders. He scarcely
           enough to be sure of who she was.”                                   opened his mouth on the way home.”
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               “The thing must run its course,” Vernon said, with the          consulted like an oracle.”
           philosophical air which is desperation rendered decorous.               “Is she so sure of her nature?” said Miss Dale.
           “Willoughby deserves it. A man of full growth ought to know             “You may doubt it; I do not. I am surprised at her coming
           that nothing on earth tempts Providence so much as the bind-        back. De Craye is a man of the world, and advised it, I sup-
           ing of a young woman against her will. Those two are mutu-          pose. He—well, I never had the persuasive tongue, and my
           ally attracted: they’re both . . . They meet, and the mischief ’s   failing doesn’t count for much.”
           done: both are bright. He can persuade with a word. Another             “But the suddenness of the intimacy!”
           might discourse like an angel and it would be useless. I said           “The disaster is rather famous ‘at first sight’. He came in a
           everything I could think of, to no purpose. And so it is: there     fortunate hour. . . for him. A pigmy’s a giant if he can manage
           are those attractions!—just as, with her, Willoughby is the         to arrive in season. Did you not notice that there was danger,
           reverse, he repels. I’m in about the same predicament—or            at their second or third glance? You counselled me to hang on
           should be if she were plighted to me. That is, for the length       here, where the amount of good I do in proportion to what I
           of five minutes; about the space of time I should require for       have to endure is microscopic.”
           the formality of handing her back her freedom. How a sane               “It was against your wishes, I know,” said Laetitia, and
           man can imagine a girl like that . . . ! But if she has changed,    when the words were out she feared that they were tentative.
           she has changed! You can’t conciliate a withered affection.         Her delicacy shrank from even seeming to sound him in rela-
           This detaining her, and tricking, and not listening, only in-       tion to a situation so delicate as Miss Middleton’s.
           creases her aversion; she learns the art in turn. Here she is,          The same sentiment guarded him from betraying himself,
           detained by fresh plots to keep Dr. Middleton at the Hall.          and he said: “Partly against. We both foresaw the possible—
           That’s true, is it not?” He saw that it was. “No, she’s not to      because, like most prophets, we knew a little more of circum-
           blame! She has told him her mind; he won’t listen. The ques-        stances enabling us to see the fatal. A pigmy would have served,
           tion then is, whether she keeps to her word, or breaks it. It’s a   but De Craye is a handsome, intelligent, pleasant fellow.”
           dispute between a conventional idea of obligation and an in-            “Sir Willoughby’s friend!”
           jury to her nature. Which is the more dishonourable thing to            “Well, in these affairs! A great deal must be charged on
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           do? Why, you and I see in a moment that her feelings guide          the goddess.”
           her best. It’s one of the few cases in which nature may be              “That is really Pagan fatalism!”
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           482                                                                                                                              483

               “Our modern word for it is Nature. Science condescends         which precipitates his actions: he has a great art of conceal-
           to speak of natural selection. Look at these! They are both        ment. As to me, as you perceive, my views are too philosophi-
           graceful and winning and witty, bright to mind and eye, made       cal to let me be of use to any of them. I blame only the one
           for one another, as country people say. I can’t blame him.         who holds to the bond. The sooner I am gone!—in fact, I
           Besides, we don’t know that he’s guilty. We’re quite in the        cannot stay on. So Dr. Middleton and the Professor did not
           dark, except that we’re certain how it must end. If the chance     strike fire together?”
           should occur to you of giving Willoughby a word of coun-               “Doctor Middleton was ready, and pursued him, but Pro-
           sel—it may—you might, without irritating him as my knowl-          fessor Crooklyn insisted on shivering. His line of blank verse,
           edge of his plight does, hint at your eyes being open. His         ‘A Railway platform and a Railway inn!’ became pathetic in
           insane dread of a detective world makes him artificially blind.    repetition. He must have suffered.”
           As soon as he fancies himself seen, he sets to work spinning a         “Somebody has to!”
           web, and he discerns nothing else. It’s generally a clever kind        “Why the innocent?”
           of web; but if it’s a tangle to others it’s the same to him, and       “He arrives a propos. But remember that Fridolin some-
           a veil as well. He is preparing the catastrophe, he forces the     times contrives to escape and have the guilty scorched. The
           issue. Tell him of her extreme desire to depart. Treat her as      Professor would not have suffered if he had missed his train,
           mad, to soothe him. Otherwise one morning he will wake a           as he appears to be in the habit of doing. Thus his unaccus-
           second time . . . ! It is perfectly certain. And the second time   tomed good-fortune was the cause of his bad.”
           it will be entirely his own fault. Inspire him with some phi-          “You saw him on the platform?”
           losophy.”                                                              “I am unacquainted with the professor. I had to get Mrs
               “I have none.”                                                 Mountstuart out of the way.”
               “I if I thought so, I would say you have better. There are         “She says she described him to you. ‘Complexion of a sweet-
           two kinds of philosophy, mine and yours. Mine comes of cold-       bread, consistency of a quenelle, grey, and like a Saint with-
           ness, yours of devotion.”                                          out his dish behind the head.’”
               “He is unlikely to choose me for his confidante.”                  “Her descriptions are strikingly accurate, but she forgot to
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               Vernon meditated. “One can never quite guess what he           sketch his back, and all that I saw was a narrow sloping back
           will do, from never knowing the heat of the centre in him          and a broad hat resting the brim on it. My report to her spoke
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           484                                                                                                                             485

           of an old gentleman of dark complexion, as the only traveller         Vernon pressed her hand reassuringly. He had but to look
           on the platform. She has faith in the efficiency of her de-       at her and review her history to think his cousin Willoughby
           scriptive powers, and so she was willing to drive off immedi-     punished by just retribution. Indeed, for any maltreatment
           ately. The intention was a start to London. Colonel De Craye      of the dear boy Love by man or by woman, coming under
           came up and effected in five minutes what I could not com-        your cognizance, you, if you be of common soundness, shall
           pass in thirty.”                                                  behold the retributive blow struck in your time.
               “But you saw Colonel De Craye pass you?”                          Miss Dale retired thinking how like she and Vernon were
               “My work was done; I should have been an intruder. Be-        to one another in the toneless condition they had achieved
           sides I was acting wet jacket with Mrs. Mountstuart to get        through sorrow. He succeeded in masking himself from her,
           her to drive off fast, or she might have jumped out in search     owing to her awe of the circumstances. She reproached her-
           of her Professor herself.”                                        self for not having the same devotion to the cold idea of duty
               “She says you were lean as a fork, with the wind whistling    as he had; and though it provoked inquiry, she would not
           through the prongs.”                                              stop to ask why he had left Miss Middleton a prey to the
               “You see how easy it is to deceive one who is an artist in    sparkling colonel. It seemed a proof of the philosophy he
           phrases. Avoid them, Miss Dale; they dazzle the penetration       preached.
           of the composer. That is why people of ability like Mrs               As she was passing by young Crossjay’s bedroom door a
           Mountstuart see so little; they are so bent on describing bril-   face appeared. Sir Willoughby slowly emerged and presented
           liantly. However, she is kind and charitable at heart. I have     himself in his full length, beseeching her to banish alarm.
           been considering to-night that, to cut this knot as it is now,        He said it in a hushed voice, with a face qualified to create
           Miss Middleton might do worse than speak straight out to          sentiment.
           Mrs. Mountstuart. No one else would have such influence               “Are you tired? sleepy?” said he.
           with Willoughby. The simple fact of Mrs. Mountstuart’s                She protested that she was not: she intended to read for
           knowing of it would be almost enough. But courage would           an hour.
           he required for that. Good-night, Miss Dale.”                         He begged to have the hour dedicated to him. “I shall be
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               “Good-night, Mr. Whitford. You pardon me for disturb-         relieved by conversing with a friend.”
           ing you?”                                                             No subterfuge crossed her mind; she thought his mid-
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           486                                                                                                                                487

           night visit to the boy’s bedside a pretty feature in him; she
           was full of pity, too; she yielded to the strange request, feeling
           that it did not become “an old woman” to attach importance
           even to the public discovery of midnight interviews involving
           herself as one, and feeling also that she was being treated as an
           old friend in the form of a very old woman. Her mind was
           bent on arresting any recurrence to the project she had so
           frequently outlined in the tongue of innuendo, of which, be-
           cause of her repeated tremblings under it, she thought him a
           master.
               He conducted her along the corridor to the private sit-                                Chapter 31.
           ting-room of the ladies Eleanor and Isabel.                                       Sir Willoughby attempts and achieves pathos.
               “Deceit!” he said, while lighting the candles on the man-
           telpiece.                                                                Both were seated. Apparently he would have preferred to
               She was earnestly compassionate, and a word that could           watch her dark downcast eyelashes in silence under sanction
           not relate to her personal destinies refreshed her by displac-       of his air of abstract meditation and the melancholy superin-
           ing her apprehensive antagonism and giving pity free play.           ducing it. Blood-colour was in her cheeks; the party had
                                                                                inspirited her features. Might it be that lively company, an
                                                                                absence of economical solicitudes, and a flourishing home were
                                                                                all she required to make her bloom again? The supposition
                                                                                was not hazardous in presence of her heightened complexion.
                                                                                    She raised her eyes. He could not meet her look without
                                                                                speaking.
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                                                                                    “Can you forgive deceit?”
                                                                                    “It would be to boast of more charity than I know myself
                                                                                to possess, were I to say that I can, Sir Willoughby. I hope I
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           488                                                                                                                                  489

           am able to forgive. I cannot tell. I should like to say yes.”        than passive abhorrence. I do not forgive: I am at heart seri-
               “Could you live with the deceiver?”                              ous and I cannot forgive:—there is no possible reconciliation,
               “No.”                                                            there can be only an ostensible truce, between the two hostile
               “No. I could have given that answer for you. No semblance        powers dividing this world.”
           of union should be maintained between the deceiver and our-              She glanced at him quickly.
           selves. Laetitia!”                                                       “Good and evil!” he said.
               “Sir Willoughby?”                                                    Her face expressed a surprise relapsing on the heart.
               “Have I no right to your name?”                                      He spelt the puckers of her forehead to mean that she
               “If it pleases you to . . .”                                     feared he might be speaking unchristianly.
               “I speak as my thoughts run, and they did not know a                 “You will find it so in all religions, my dear Laetitia: the
           Miss Dale so well as a dear Laetitia: my truest friend! You          Hindoo, the Persian, ours. It is universal; an experience of our
           have talked with Clara Middleton?”                                   humanity. Deceit and sincerity cannot live together. Truth
               “We had a conversation.”                                         must kill the lie, or the lie will kill truth. I do not forgive. All
               Her brevity affrighted him. He flew off in a cloud.              I say to the person is, go!”
               “Reverting to that question of deceivers: is it not your opin-       “But that is right! that is generous!” exclaimed Laetitia,
           ion that to pardon, to condone, is to corrupt society by pass-       glad to approve him for the sake of escaping her critical soul,
           ing off as pure what is false? Do we not,” he wore the smile of      and relieved by the idea of Clara’s difficulty solved.
           haggard playfulness of a convalescent child the first day back           “Capable of generosity, perhaps,” he mused, aloud.
           to its toys, “Laetitia, do we not impose a counterfeit on the            She wounded him by not supplying the expected enthu-
           currency?”                                                           siastic asseveration of her belief in his general tendency to
               “Supposing it to be really deception.”                           magnanimity.
               “Apart from my loathing of deception, of falseness in any            He said, after a pause: “But the world is not likely to be
           shape, upon any grounds, I hold it an imperious duty to ex-          impressed by anything not immediately gratifying it. People
           pose, punish, off with it. I take it to be one of the forms of       change, I find: as we increase in years we cease to be the he-
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           noxiousness which a good citizen is bound to extirpate. I am         roes we were. I myself am insensible to change: I do not ad-
           not myself good citizen enough, I confess, for much more             mit the charge. Except in this we will say: personal ambition.
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           490                                                                                                                                491

           I have it no more. And what is it when we have it? Decidedly         pride. As, for instance, I am, as it is called, a dead shot. ‘Give
           a confession of inferiority! That is, the desire to be distin-       your acclamations, gentlemen, to my ancestors, from whom I
           guished is an acknowledgement of insufficiency. But I have           inherited a steady hand and quick sight.’ They do not touch
           still the craving for my dearest friends to think well of me. A      me. Where I do not find myself—that I am essentially I—no
           weakness? Call it so. Not a dishonourable weakness!”                 applause can move me. To speak to you as I would speak to
               Laetitia racked her brain for the connection of his present      none, admiration—you know that in my early youth I swam
           speech with the preceding dialogue. She was baffled, from            in flattery—I had to swim to avoid drowning!—admiration
           not knowing “the heat of the centre in him”, as Vernon opaquely      of my personal gifts has grown tasteless. Changed, therefore,
           phrased it in charity to the object of her worship.                  inasmuch as there has been a growth of spirituality. We are all
               “Well,” said he, unappeased, “and besides the passion to         in submission to mortal laws, and so far I have indeed changed.
           excel, I have changed somewhat in the heartiness of my thirst        I may add that it is unusual for country gentlemen to apply
           for the amusements incident to my station. I do not care to          themselves to scientific researches. These are, however, in the
           keep a stud—I was once tempted: nor hounds. And I can                spirit of the time. I apprehended that instinctively when at
           remember the day when I determined to have the best ken-             College. I forsook the classics for science. And thereby es-
           nels and the best breed of horses in the kingdom. Puerile!           caped the vice of domineering self-sufficiency peculiar to clas-
           What is distinction of that sort, or of any acquisition and          sical men, of which you had an amusing example in the car-
           accomplishment? We ask! one’s self is not the greater. To seek       riage, on the way to Mrs. Mountstuart’s this evening. Science
           it, owns to our smallness, in real fact; and when it is attained,    is modest; slow, if you like; it deals with facts, and having
           what then? My horses are good, they are admired, I challenge         mastered them, it masters men; of necessity, not with a stu-
           the county to surpass them: well? These are but my horses;           pid, loud-mouthed arrogance: words big and oddly garbed as
           the praise is of the animals, not of me. I decline to share in it.   the Pope’s body-guard. Of course, one bows to the Infallible;
           Yet I know men content to swallow the praise of their beasts         we must, when his giant-mercenaries level bayonets.”
           and be semi-equine. The littleness of one’s fellows in the mob           Sir Willoughby offered Miss Dale half a minute that she
           of life is a very strange experience! One may regret to have         might in gentle feminine fashion acquiesce in the implied
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           lost the simplicity of one’s forefathers, which could accept         reproof of Dr. Middleton’s behaviour to him during the drive
           those and other distinctions with a cordial pleasure, not to say     to Mrs. Mountstuart’s. She did not.
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           492                                                                                                                              493

               Her heart was accusing Clara of having done it a wrong         makes me, as I fear, a rara avis among country gentlemen, it
           and a hurt. For while he talked he seemed to her to justify        unites me, puts me in the main, I may say, in the only current
           Clara’s feelings and her conduct: and her own reawakened           of progress—a word sufficiently despicable in their political
           sensations of injury came to the surface a moment to look at       jargon.—You enjoyed your evening at Mrs. Mountstuart’s?”
           him, affirming that they pardoned him, and pitied, but hardly          “Very greatly.”
           wondered.                                                              “She brings her Professor to dine here the day after to-
               The heat of the centre in him had administered the com-        morrow. Does it astonish you? You started.”
           fort he wanted, though the conclusive accordant notes he loved         “I did not hear the invitation.”
           on woman’s lips, that subservient harmony of another instru-           “It was arranged at the table: you and I were separated—
           ment desired of musicians when they have done their solo-          cruelly, I told her: she declared that we see enough of one
           playing, came not to wind up the performance: not a single         another, and that it was good for me that we should be sepa-
           bar. She did not speak. Probably his Laetitia was overcome, as     rated; neither of which is true. I may not have known what is
           he had long known her to be when they conversed; nerve-            the best for me: I do know what is good. If in my younger
           subdued, unable to deploy her mental resources or her musi-        days I egregiously erred, that, taken of itself alone, is, assum-
           cal. Yet ordinarily she had command of the latter.—Was she         ing me to have sense and feeling, the surer proof of present
           too condoling? Did a reason exist for it? Had the impulsive        wisdom. I can testify in person that wisdom is pain. If pain is
           and desperate girl spoken out to Laetitia to the fullest?—         to add to wisdom, let me suffer! Do you approve of that,
           shameless daughter of a domineering sire that she was! Ghastlier   Laetitia?”
           inquiry (it struck the centre of him with a sounding ring),            “It is well said.”
           was Laetitia pitying him overmuch for worse than the pain of           “It is felt. Those who themselves have suffered should know
           a little difference between lovers—for treason on the part of      the benefit of the resolution.”
           his bride? Did she know of a rival? know more than he?                 “One may have suffered so much as to wish only for peace.”
               When the centre of him was violently struck he was a               “True: but you! have you?”
           genius in penetration. He guessed that she did know: and by            “It would be for peace, if I prayed for any earthly gift.”
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           this was he presently helped to achieve pathos.                        Sir Willoughby dropped a smile on her. “I mentioned the
               “So my election was for Science,” he continued; “and if it     Pope’s parti-coloured body-guard just now. In my youth their
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           494                                                                                                                              495

           singular attire impressed me. People tell me they have been        cere. I will have sincerity. Whatever touches our emotions
           re-uniformed: I am sorry. They remain one of my liveliest          should be spontaneous, not a craft. I know you are in favour
           recollections of the Eternal City. They affected my sense of       of poetry. You would win me, if any one could. But history!
           humour, always alert in me, as you are aware. We English           there I am with you. Walking over ruins: at night: the arches
           have humour. It is the first thing struck in us when we land       of the solemn black amphitheatre pouring moonlight on us—
           on the Continent: our risible faculties are generally active all   the moonlight of Italy!”
           through the tour. Humour, or the clash of sense with novel             “You would not laugh there, Sir Willoughby?” said Laetitia,
           examples of the absurd, is our characteristic. I do not conde-     rousing herself from a stupor of apprehensive amazement, to
           scend to boisterous displays of it. I observe, and note the        utter something and realize actual circumstances.
           people’s comicalities for my correspondence. But you have              “Besides, you, I think, or I am mistaken in you”—he devi-
           read my letters—most of them, if not all?”                         ated from his projected speech—”you are not a victim of the
              “Many of them.”                                                 sense of association and the ludicrous.”
              “I was with you then!—I was about to say—that Swiss-                “I can understand the influence of it: I have at least a con-
           guard reminded me—you have not been in Italy. I have con-          ception of the humourous, but ridicule would not strike me
           stantly regretted it. You are the very woman, you have the         in the Coliseum of Rome. I could not bear it, no, Sir
           soul for Italy. I know no other of whom I could say it, with       Willoughby!”
           whom I should not feel that she was out of place, discordant           She appeared to be taking him in very strong earnest, by
           with me. Italy and Laetitia! often have I joined you together.     thus petitioning him not to laugh in the Coliseum, and now
           We shall see. I begin to have hopes. Here you have literally       he said: “Besides, you are one who could accommodate your-
           stagnated. Why, a dinner-party refreshes you! What would           self to the society of the ladies, my aunts. Good women,
           not travel do, and that heavenly climate! You are a reader of      Laetitia! I cannot imagine them de trop in Italy, or in a house-
           history and poetry. Well, poetry! I never yet saw the poetry       hold. I have of course reason to be partial in my judgement.”
           that expressed the tenth part of what I feel in the presence of        “They are excellent and most amiable ladies; I love them,”
           beauty and magnificence, and when I really meditate—pro-           said Laetitia, fervently; the more strongly excited to fervour
Contents




           foundly. Call me a positive mind. I feel: only I feel too in-      by her enlightenment as to his drift.
           tensely for poetry. By the nature of it, poetry cannot be sin-         She read it that he designed to take her to Italy with the
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           496                                                                                                                            497

           ladies: —after giving Miss Middleton her liberty; that was       am, I think you once quoted, ‘tossed like a weed on the ocean.’
           necessarily implied. And that was truly generous. In his boy-    Of myself I can speak: I cannot speak for a second person. I
           hood he had been famous for his bountifulness in scattering      am infinitely harassed. If I could cry, ‘To Italy tomorrow!’
           silver and gold. Might he not have caused himself to be          Ah! . . . Do not set me down for complaining. I know the lot
           misperused in later life?                                        of man. But, Laetitia, deceit! deceit! It is a bad taste in the
               Clara had spoken to her of the visit and mission of the      mouth. It sickens us of humanity. I compare it to an earth-
           ladies to the library: and Laetitia daringly conceived herself   quake: we lose all our reliance on the solidity of the world. It
           to be on the certain track of his meaning, she being able to     is a betrayal not simply of the person; it is a betrayal of hu-
           enjoy their society as she supposed him to consider that Miss    mankind. My friend! Constant friend! No, I will not despair.
           Middleton did not, and would not either abroad or at home.       Yes, I have faults; I will remember them. Only, forgiveness is
               Sir Willoughby asked her: “You could travel with them?”      another question. Yes, the injury I can forgive; the falseness
               “Indeed I could!”                                            never. In the interests of humanity, no. So young, and such
               “Honestly?”                                                  deceit!”
               “As affirmatively as one may protest. Delightedly.”              Laetitia’s bosom rose: her hand was detained: a lady who
               “Agreed. It is an undertaking.” He put his hand out.         has yielded it cannot wrestle to have it back; those outworks
               “Whether I be of the party or not! To Italy, Laetitia! It    which protect her treacherously shelter the enemy aiming at
           would give me pleasure to be with you, and it will, if I must    the citadel when he has taken them. In return for the silken
           be excluded, to think of you in Italy.”                          armour bestowed on her by our civilization, it is exacted that
               His hand was out. She had to feign inattention or yield      she be soft and civil nigh up to perishing-point. She breathed
           her own. She had not the effrontery to pretend not to see,       tremulously high, saying on her top-breath: “If it—it may
           and she yielded it. He pressed it, and whenever it shrunk a      not be so; it can scarcely. . .” A deep sigh intervened. It sad-
           quarter inch to withdraw, he shook it up and down, as an         dened her that she knew so much.
           instrument that had been lent him for due emphasis to his            “For when I love I love,” said Sir Willoughby; “my friends
           remarks. And very emphatic an amorous orator can make it         and my servants know that. There can be no medium: not
Contents




           upon a captive lady.                                             with me. I give all, I claim all. As I am absorbed, so must I
               “I am unable to speak decisively on that or any subject. I   absorb. We both cancel and create, we extinguish and we il-
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           498                                                                                                                             499

           lumine one another. The error may be in the choice of an          he fluted exceedingly; and she wondered whether it was this
           object: it is not in the passion. Perfect confidence, perfect     which had wrecked him with Miss Middleton.
           abandonment. I repeat, I claim it because I give it. The self-        His intuitive sagacity counselled him to strive for pathos
           ishness of love may be denounced: it is a part of us. My an-      to move her. It was a task; for while he perceived her to be not
           swer would be, it is an element only of the noblest of us!        ignorant of his plight, he doubted her knowing the extent of
           Love, Laetitia! I speak of love. But one who breaks faith to      it, and as his desire was merely to move her without an expo-
           drag us through the mire, who betrays, betrays and hands us       sure of himself, he had to compass being pathetic as it were
           over to the world, whose prey we become identically because       under the impediments of a mailed and gauntletted knight,
           of virtues we were educated to think it a blessing to possess:    who cannot easily heave the bosom, or show it heaving.
           tell me the name for that!—Again, it has ever been a prin-            Moreover, pathos is a tide: often it carries the awakener of
           ciple with me to respect the sex. But if we see women false,      it off his feet, and whirls him over and over armour and all in
           treacherous . . . Why indulge in these abstract views, you        ignominious attitudes of helpless prostration, whereof he may
           would ask! The world presses them on us, full as it is of the     well be ashamed in the retrospect. We cannot quite preserve
           vilest specimens. They seek to pluck up every rooted prin-        our dignity when we stoop to the work of calling forth tears.
           ciple: they sneer at our worship: they rob us of our religion.    Moses had probably to take a nimble jump away from the
           This bitter experience of the world drives us back to the anti-   rock after that venerable Law-giver had knocked the water
           dote of what we knew before we plunged into it: of one . . . of   out of it.
           something we esteemed and still esteem. Is that antidote strong       However, it was imperative in his mind that he should be
           enough to expel the poison? I hope so! I believe so! To lose      sure he had the power to move her.
           faith in womankind is terrible.”                                      He began; clumsily at first, as yonder gauntletted knight
               He studied her. She looked distressed: she was not moved.     attempting the briny handkerchief.
               She was thinking that, with the exception of a strain of          “What are we! We last but a very short time. Why not
           haughtiness, he talked excellently to men, at least in the tone   live to gratify our appetites? I might really ask myself why.
           of the things he meant to say; but that his manner of talking     All the means of satiating them are at my disposal. But no: I
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           to women went to an excess in the artificial tongue—the tu-       must aim at the highest:—at that which in my blindness I
           tored tongue of sentimental deference of the towering male:       took for the highest. You know the sportsman’s instinct,
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           500                                                                                                                              501

           Laetitia; he is not tempted by the stationary object. Such are     worse. The loneliness! And the darkness! Our luminary is
           we in youth, toying with happiness, leaving it, to aim at the      extinguished. Self-respect refuses to continue worshipping,
           dazzling and attractive.”                                          but the affection will not be turned aside. We are literally in
               “We gain knowledge,” said Laetitia.                            the dust, we grovel, we would fling away self-respect if we
               “At what a cost!”                                              could; we would adopt for a model the creature preferred to
               The exclamation summoned self-pity to his aid, and pa-         us; we would humiliate, degrade ourselves; we cry for justice
           thos was handy.                                                    as if it were for pardon . . .”
               “By paying half our lives for it and all our hopes! Yes, we        “For pardon! when we are straining to grant it!” Laetitia
           gain knowledge, we are the wiser; very probably my value           murmured, and it was as much as she could do. She remem-
           surpasses now what it was when I was happier. But the loss!        bered how in her old misery her efforts after charity had
           That youthful bloom of the soul is like health to the body;        twisted her round to feel herself the sinner, and beg forgive-
           once gone, it leaves cripples behind. Nay, my friend and pre-      ness in prayer: a noble sentiment, that filled her with pity of
           cious friend, these four fingers I must retain. They seem to       the bosom in which it had sprung. There was no similarity
           me the residue of a wreck: you shall be released shortly: abso-    between his idea and hers, but her idea had certainly been
           lutely, Laetitia, I have nothing else remaining—We have spo-       roused by his word “pardon”, and he had the benefit of it in
           ken of deception; what of being undeceived?—when one               the moisture of her eyes. Her lips trembled, tears fell.
           whom we adored is laid bare, and the wretched consolation of           He had heard something; he had not caught the words,
           a worthy object is denied to us. No misfortune can be like         but they were manifestly favourable; her sign of emotion as-
           that. Were it death, we could worship still. Death would be        sured him of it and of the success he had sought. There was
           preferable. But may you be spared to know a situation in           one woman who bowed to him to all eternity! He had in-
           which the comparison with your inferior is forced on you to        spired one woman with the mysterious, man-desired passion
           your disadvantage and your loss because of your generously         of self-abandonment, self-immolation! The evidence was be-
           giving up your whole heart to the custody of some shallow,         fore him. At any instant he could, if he pleased, fly to her and
           light-minded, self—! . . . We will not deal in epithets. If I      command her enthusiasm.
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           were to find as many bad names for the serpent as there are            He had, in fact, perhaps by sympathetic action, succeeded
           spots on his body, it would be serpent still, neither better nor   in striking the same springs of pathos in her which animated
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           502                                                                                                                              503

           his lively endeavour to produce it in himself                      caused him to snatch at it, hungrily if contemptuously. A
               He kissed her hand; then released it, quitting his chair to    poor feast, she was yet a fortress, a point of succour, both
           bend above her soothingly.                                         shield and lance; a cover and an impetus. He could now en-
               “Do not weep, Laetitia, you see that I do not; I can smile.    counter Clara boldly. Should she resist and defy him, he would
           Help me to bear it; you must not unman me.”                        not be naked and alone; he foresaw that he might win honour
               She tried to stop her crying, but self-pity threatened to      in the world’s eye from his position—a matter to be thought
           rain all her long years of grief on her head, and she said: “I     of only in most urgent need. The effect on him of his recent
           must go . . . I am unfit . . . good-night, Sir Willoughby.”        exercise in pathos was to compose him to slumber. He was for
               Fearing seriously that he had sunk his pride too low in her    the period well satisfied.
           consideration, and had been carried farther than he intended           His attendant imps were well satisfied likewise, and danced
           on the tide of pathos, he remarked: “We will speak about           around about his bed after the vigilant gentleman had ceased
           Crossjay to-morrow. His deceitfulness has been gross. As I         to debate on the question of his unveiling of himself past
           said, I am grievously offended by deception. But you are tired.    forgiveness of her to Laetitia, and had surrendered to sleep
           Good-night, my dear friend.”                                       the present direction of his affairs.
               “Good-night, Sir Willoughby.”
               She was allowed to go forth.
               Colonel De Craye coming up from the smoking-room,
           met her and noticed the state of her eyelids, as he wished her
           goodnight. He saw Willoughby in the room she had quitted,
           but considerately passed without speaking, and without re-
           flecting why he was considerate.
               Our hero’s review of the scene made him, on the whole,
           satisfied with his part in it. Of his power upon one woman he
           was now perfectly sure:—Clara had agonized him with a doubt
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           of his personal mastery of any. One was a poor feast, but the
           pangs of his flesh during the last few days and the latest hours
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           504                                                                                                                              505

                                                                              really, I feel it was at my command. Crossjay will be out of
                                                                              the way to-day, and has promised to come back at night to
                                                                              try to be forgiven. You must help me, Laetitia.”
                                                                                  “You are free, Clara! If you desire it, you have but to ask
                                                                              for your freedom.”
                                                                                  “You mean . . .”
                                                                                  “He will release you.”
                                                                                  “You are sure?”
                                                                                  “We had a long conversation last night.”
                                                                                  “I owe it to you?”
                               Chapter 32.                                        “Nothing is owing to me. He volunteered it.”
                      Laetitia Dale discovers a spiritual change and              Clara made as if to lift her eyes in apostrophe. “Professor
                                Dr Middleton a physical.                      Crooklyn! Professor Crooklyn! I see. I did not guess that.”
                                                                                  “Give credit for some generosity, Clara; you are unjust!”
               Clara tripped over the lawn in the early morning to Laetitia       “By and by: I will be more than just by and by. I will
           to greet her. She broke away from a colloquy with Colonel De       practise on the trumpet: I will lecture on the greatness of the
           Craye under Sir Willoughby’s windows. The colonel had been         souls of men when we know them thoroughly. At present we
           one of the bathers, and he stood like a circus-driver flicking a   do but half know them, and we are unjust. You are not de-
           wet towel at Crossjay capering.                                    ceived, Laetitia? There is to be no speaking to papa? no delu-
               “My dear, I am very unhappy!” said Clara.                      sions? You have agitated me. I feel myself a very small person
               “My dear, I bring you news,” Laetitia replied.                 indeed. I feel I can understand those who admire him. He
               “Tell me. But the poor boy is to be expelled! He burst         gives me back my word simply? clearly? without—Oh, that
           into Crossjay’s bedroom last night and dragged the sleeping        long wrangle in scenes and letters? And it will be arranged for
                                                                              papa and me to go not later than to-morrow? Never shall I be
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           boy out of bed to question him, and he had the truth. That is
           one comfort: only Crossjay is to be driven from the Hall,          able to explain to any one how I fell into this! I am fright-
           because he was untruthful previously—for me; to serve me;          ened at myself when I think of it. I take the whole blame: I
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           506                                                                                                                                507

           have been scandalous. And, dear Laetitia! you came out so               “He passed me.”
           early in order to tell me?”                                             “Do not imagine him ever ill-tempered.”
               “I wished you to hear it.”                                          “I had a governess, a learned lady, who taught me in per-
               “Take my heart.”                                                 son the picturesqueness of grumpiness. Her temper was ever
               “Present me with a part—but for good.”                           perfect, because she was never in the wrong, but I being so,
               “Fie! But you have a right to say it.”                           she was grumpy. She carried my iniquity under her brows,
               “I mean no unkindness; but is not the heart you allude to        and looked out on me through it. I was a trying child.”
           an alarmingly searching one?”                                           Laetitia said, laughing: “I can believe it!”
               “Selfish it is, for I have been forgetting Crossjay. If we are      “Yet I liked her and she liked me: we were a kind of fore-
           going to be generous, is not Crossjay to be forgiven? If it were     ground and background: she threw me into relief and I was
           only that the boy’s father is away fighting for his country,         an apology for her existence.”
           endangering his life day by day, and for a stipend not enough           “You picture her to me.”
           to support his family, we are bound to think of the boy! Poor           “She says of me now that I am the only creature she has
           dear silly lad! with his ‘I say, Miss Middleton, why wouldn’t        loved. Who knows that I may not come to say the same of
           (some one) see my father when he came here to call on him,           her?”
           and had to walk back ten miles in the rain?’—I could almost             “You would plague her and puzzle her still.”
           fancy that did me mischief. . . But we have a splendid morn-            “Have I plagued and puzzled Mr. Whitford?”
           ing after yesterday’s rain. And we will be generous. Own,               “He reminds you of her?”
           Laetitia, that it is possible to gild the most glorious day of          “You said you had her picture.”
           creation.”                                                              “Ah! do not laugh at him. He is a true friend.”
               “Doubtless the spirit may do it and make its hues perma-            “The man who can be a friend is the man who will pre-
           nent,” said Laetitia.                                                sume to be a censor.”
               “You to me, I to you, he to us. Well, then, if he does, it          “A mild one.”
           shall be one of my heavenly days. Which is for the probation            “As to the sentence he pronounces, I am unable to speak,
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           of experience. We are not yet at sunset.”                            but his forehead is Rhadamanthine condemnation.”
               “Have you seen Mr. Whitford this morning?”                          “Dr Middleton!”
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           508                                                                                                                               509

               Clara looked round. “Who? I? Did you hear an echo of            You fancy him brooding, gloomy? He is the reverse, he is
           papa? He would never have put Rhadamanthus over Euro-               cheerful, he is indifferent to personal misfortune. Dr. Corney
           pean souls, because it appears that Rhadamanthus judged only        says there is no laugh like Vernon Whitford’s, and no humour
           the Asiatic; so you are wrong, Miss Dale. My father is infatu-      like his. Latterly he certainly . . . But it has not been your
           ated with Mr. Whitford. What can it be? We women cannot             cruel word grumpiness. The truth is, he is anxious about
           sound the depths of scholars, probably because their pearls         Crossjay: and about other things; and he wants to leave. He is
           have no value in our market; except when they deign to chas-        at a disadvantage beside very lively and careless gentlemen at
           ten an impertinent; and Mr. Whitford stands aloof from any          present, but your ‘Triton ashore’ is unfair, it is ugly. He is, I
           notice of small fry. He is deep, studious, excellent; and does it   can say, the truest man I know.”
           not strike you that if he descended among us he would be like           “I did not question his goodness, Laetitia.”
           a Triton ashore?”                                                       “You threw an accent on it.”
               Laetitia’s habit of wholly subservient sweetness, which was         “Did I? I must be like Crossjay, who declares he likes fun
           her ideal of the feminine, not yet conciliated with her acuter      best.”
           character, owing to the absence of full pleasure from her life—         “Crossjay ought to know him, if anybody should. Mr.
           the unhealed wound she had sustained and the cramp of a             Whitford has defended you against me, Clara, even since I
           bondage of such old date as to seem iron—induced her to say,        took to calling you Clara. Perhaps when you supposed him so
           as if consenting: “You think he is not quite at home in soci-       like your ancient governess, he was meditating how he could
           ety?” But she wished to defend him strenuously, and as a con-       aid you. Last night he gave me reasons for thinking you would
           sequence she had to quit the self-imposed ideal of her daily        do wisely to confide in Mrs. Mountstuart. It is no longer
           acting, whereby—the case being unwonted, very novel to her—         necessary. I merely mention it. He is a devoted friend.”
           the lady’s intelligence became confused through the process             “He is an untiring pedestrian.”
           that quickened it; so sovereign a method of hoodwinking our             “Oh!”
           bright selves is the acting of a part, however naturally it may         Colonel De Craye, after hovering near the ladies in the
           come to us! and to this will each honest autobiographical           hope of seeing them divide, now adopted the system of mak-
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           member of the animated world bear witness.                          ing three that two may come of it.
               She added: “You have not found him sympathetic? He is.              As he joined them with his glittering chatter, Laetitia
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           510                                                                                                                                 511

           looked at Clara to consult her, and saw the face rosy as a bride’s.   loves, and appetites, had been established between women
               The suspicion she had nursed sprung out of her arms a             and boys. Laetitia had formerly chafed at it, rejecting it ut-
           muscular fact on the spot.                                            terly, save when now and then in a season of bitterness she
               “Where is my dear boy?” Clara said.                               handed here and there a volatile young lady (none but the
               “Out for a holiday,” the colonel answered in her tone.            young) to be stamped with the degrading brand. Vernon might
               “Advise Mr. Whitford not to waste his time in searching           be as philosophical as he pleased. To her the gaiety of these
           for Crossjay, Laetitia. Crossjay is better out of the way to-day.     two, Colonel De Craye and Clara Middleton, was distress-
           At least, I thought so just now. Has he pocket-money, Colo-           ingly musical: they harmonized painfully. The representative
           nel De Craye?”                                                        of her sex was hurt by it.
               “My lord can command his inn.”                                        She had to stay beside them: Clara held her arm. The
               “How thoughtful you are!”                                         colonel’s voice dropped at times to something very like a whis-
               Laetitia’s bosom swelled upon a mute exclamation, equiva-         per. He was answered audibly and smoothly. The quickwitted
           lent to: “Woman! woman! snared ever by the sparkling and              gentleman accepted the correction: but in immediately pay-
           frivolous! undiscerning of the faithful, the modest and be-           ing assiduous attentions to Miss Dale, in the approved
           neficent!”                                                            intriguer’s fashion, he showed himself in need of another
               In the secret musings of moralists this dramatic rhetoric         amounting to a reproof. Clara said: “We have been consult-
           survives.                                                             ing, Laetitia, what is to be done to cure Professor Crooklyn of
               The comparison was all of her own making, and she was             his cold.” De Craye perceived that he had taken a wrong step,
           indignant at the contrast, though to what end she was indig-          and he was mightily surprised that a lesson in intrigue should
           nant she could not have said, for she had no idea of Vernon as        be read to him of all men. Miss Middleton’s audacity was not
           a rival of De Craye in the favour of a plighted lady. But she         so astonishing: he recognized grand capabilities in the young
           was jealous on behalf of her sex: her sex’s reputation seemed         lady. Fearing lest she should proceed further and cut away
           at stake, and the purity of it was menaced by Clara’s idle            from him his vantage-ground of secrecy with her, he turned
           preference of the shallower man. When the young lady spoke            the subject and was adroitly submissive.
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           so carelessly of being like Crossjay, she did not perhaps know            Clara’s manner of meeting Sir Willoughby expressed a
           that a likeness, based on a similarity of their enthusiasms,          timid disposition to friendliness upon a veiled inquiry, un-
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           512                                                                                                                             513

           derstood by none save Laetitia, whose brain was racked to         have given him compassion, and not herself have been carried
           convey assurances to herself of her not having misinterpreted     on the flood of it? The compassion was fervent, and pure too.
           him. Could there be any doubt? She resolved that there could      She supposed he would supplicate; she saw that Clara
           not be; and it was upon this basis of reason that she fancied     Middleton was pleasant with him only for what she expected
           she had led him to it. Legitimate or not, the fancy sprang        of his generosity. She grieved. Sir Willoughby was fortified
           from a solid foundation. Yesterday morning she could not          by her sorrowful gaze as he and Clara passed out together to
           have conceived it. Now she was endowed to feel that she had       the laboratory arm in arm.
           power to influence him, because now, since the midnight, she          Laetitia had to tell Vernon of the uselessness of his beat-
           felt some emancipation from the spell of his physical mas-        ing the house and grounds for Crossjay. Dr. Middleton held
           tery. He did not appear to her as a different man, but she had    him fast in discussion upon an overnight’s classical wrangle
           grown sensible of being a stronger woman. He was no more          with Professor Crooklyn, which was to be renewed that day.
           the cloud over her, nor the magnet; the cloud once heaven-        The Professor had appointed to call expressly to renew it. “A
           suffused, the magnet fatally compelling her to sway round to      fine scholar,” said the Rev. Doctor, “but crotchety, like all men
           him. She admired him still: his handsome air, his fine pro-       who cannot stand their Port.”
           portions, the courtesy of his bending to Clara and touching           “I hear that he had a cold,” Vernon remarked. “I hope the
           of her hand, excused a fanatical excess of admiration on the      wine was good, sir.”
           part of a woman in her youth, who is never the anatomist of           As when the foreman of a sentimental jury is commis-
           the hero’s lordly graces. But now she admired him piecemeal.      sioned to inform an awful Bench exact in perspicuous En-
           When it came to the putting of him together, she did it coldly.   glish, of a verdict that must of necessity be pronounced in
           To compassionate him was her utmost warmth. Without con-          favour of the hanging of the culprit, yet would fain attenuate
           ceiving in him anything of the strange old monster of earth       the crime of a palpable villain by a recommendation to mercy,
           which had struck the awakened girl’s mind of Miss Middleton,      such foreman, standing in the attentive eye of a master of
           Laetitia classed him with other men; he was “one of them”.        grammatical construction, and feeling the weight of at least
           And she did not bring her disenchantment as a charge against      three sentences on his brain, together with a prospect of Judi-
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           him. She accused herself, acknowledged the secret of the change   cial interrogation for the discovery of his precise meaning, is
           to be, and her youthfulness was dead:—otherwise could she         oppressed, himself is put on trial, in turn, and he hesitates, he
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           514                                                                                                                             515

           recapitulates, the fear of involution leads him to be involved;   charged at once upon a railway platform, and the young lady
           as far as a man so posted may, he on his own behalf appeals       who dries herself of a drenching by drinking brandy and wa-
           for mercy; entreats that his indistinct statement of preposter-   ter with a gentleman at a railway inn, I shall solicit your sanc-
           ous reasons may be taken for understood, and would gladly,        tion to my condemnation of the wine as anti-Bacchic and a
           were permission to do it credible, throw in an imploring word     counterfeit presentment. Do not misjudge me. Our hostess is
           that he may sink back among the crowd without for the one         not responsible. But widows should marry.”
           imperishable moment publicly swinging in his lordship’s es-           “You must contrive to stop the Professor, sir, if he should
           timation:—much so, moved by chivalry toward a lady, cour-         attack his hostess in that manner,” said Vernon.
           tesy to the recollection of a hostess, and particularly by the        “Widows should marry!” Dr. Middleton repeated.
           knowledge that his hearer would expect with a certain frigid          He murmured of objecting to be at the discretion of a
           rigour charity of him, Dr. Middleton paused, spoke and            butler; unless, he was careful to add, the aforesaid function-
           paused: he stammered. Ladies, he said, were famous poison-        ary could boast of an University education; and even then,
           ers in the Middle Ages. His opinion was, that we had a class      said he, it requires a line of ancestry to train a man’s taste.
           of manufacturing wine merchants on the watch for widows               The Rev. Doctor smothered a yawn. The repression of it
           in this country. But he was bound to state the fact of his        caused a second one, a real monster, to come, big as our old
           waking at his usual hour to the minute unassailed by head-        friend of the sea advancing on the chained-up Beauty.
           ache. On the other hand, this was a condition of blessedness          Disconcerted by this damning evidence of indigestion, his
           unanticipated when he went to bed. Mr. Whitford, however,         countenance showed that he considered himself to have been
           was not to think that he entertained rancour toward the wine.     too lenient to the wine of an unhusbanded hostess. He frowned
           It was no doubt dispensed with the honourable intention of        terribly.
           cheering. In point of flavour execrable, judging by results it        In the interval Laetitia told Vernon of Crossjay’s flight
           was innocuous.                                                    for the day, hastily bidding the master to excuse him: she had
               “The test of it shall be the effect of it upon Professor      no time to hint the grounds of excuse. Vernon mentally made
           Crooklyn, and his appearance in the forenoon according to         a guess.
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           promise,” Dr. Middleton came to an end with his perturbed             Dr Middleton took his arm and discharged a volley at the
           balancings. “If I hear more of the eight or twelve winds dis-     crotchetty scholarship of Professor Crooklyn, whom to con-
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           516                                                                                                                             517

           fute by book, he directed his march to the library. Having        tal jury within had delivered an unmitigated verdict upon
           persuaded himself that he was dyspeptic, he had grown iras-       the widow’s wine.
           cible. He denounced all dining out, eulogized Patterne Hall           Laetitia hurried to find Vernon.
           as if it were his home, and remembered he had dreamed in              He was in the hall. As she drew near him, the laboratory
           the night—a most humiliating sign of physical disturbance.        door opened and shut.
           “But let me find a house in proximity to Patterne, as I am            “It is being decided,” said Laetitia.
           induced to suppose I shall,” he said, “and here only am I to be       Vernon was paler than the hue of perfect calmness.
           met when I stir abroad.”                                              “I want to know whether I ought to take to my heels like
               Laetitia went to her room. She was complacently anxious       Crossjay, and shun the Professor,” he said.
           enough to prefer solitude and be willing to read. She was             They spoke in under-tones, furtively watching the door.
           more seriously anxious about Crossjay than about any of the           “I wish what she wishes, I am sure; but it will go badly
           others. For Clara would be certain to speak very definitely,      with the boy,” said Laetitia.
           and how then could a gentleman oppose her? He would sup-              “Oh, well, then I’ll take him,” said Vernon, “I would rather.
           plicate, and could she be brought to yield? It was not to be      I think I can manage it.”
           expected of a young lady who had turned from Sir Willoughby.          Again the laboratory door opened. This time it shut be-
           His inferiors would have had a better chance. Whatever his        hind Miss Middleton. She was highly flushed. Seeing them,
           faults, he had that element of greatness which excludes the       she shook the storm from her brows, with a dead smile; the
           intercession of pity. Supplication would be with him a form       best piece of serenity she could put on for public wear.
           of condescension. It would be seen to be such. His was a              She took a breath before she moved.
           monumental pride that could not stoop. She had preserved              Vernon strode out of the house.
           this image of the gentleman for a relic in the shipwreck of her       Clara swept up to Laetitia.
           idolatry. So she mused between the lines of her book, and             “You were deceived!”
           finishing her reading and marking the page, she glanced down          The hard sob of anger barred her voice.
           on the lawn. Dr. Middleton was there, and alone; his hands            Laetitia begged her to come to her room with her.
Contents




           behind his back, his head bent. His meditative pace and un-           “I want air: I must be by myself,” said Clara, catching at
           wonted perusal of the turf proclaimed that a non-sentimen-        her garden-hat.
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           518                                                                                                                            519

              She walked swiftly to the portico steps and turned to the
           right, to avoid the laboratory windows.




                                                                                                Chapter 33.
                                                                                  In which the comic muse has an eye on two good souls.

                                                                              Clara met Vernon on the bowling-green among the lau-
                                                                          rels. She asked him where her father was.
                                                                              “Don’t speak to him now,” said Vernon.
                                                                              “Mr. Whitford, will you?”
                                                                              “It is not advisable just now. Wait.”
                                                                              “Wait? Why not now?”
                                                                              “He is not in the right humour.”
                                                                              She choked. There are times when there is no medicine
                                                                          for us in sages, we want slaves; we scorn to temporize, we
                                                                          must overbear. On she sped, as if she had made the mistake of
Contents




                                                                          exchanging words with a post.
                                                                              The scene between herself and Willoughby was a thick
                                                                          mist in her head, except the burden and result of it, that he
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           520                                                                                                                                521

           held to her fast, would neither assist her to depart nor disen-      strain her.
           gage her.                                                                Happily for Miss Middleton, she had walked some min-
              Oh, men! men! They astounded the girl; she could not              utes in her chafing fit before the falcon eye of Colonel De
           define them to her understanding. Their motives, their tastes,       Craye spied her away on one of the beech-knots.
           their vanity, their tyranny, and the domino on their vanity,             Vernon stood irresolute. It was decidedly not a moment
           the baldness of their tyranny, clinched her in feminine an-          for disturbing Dr. Middleton’s composure. He meditated upon
           tagonism to brute power. She was not the less disposed to            a conversation, as friendly as possible, with Willoughby. Round
           rebellion by a very present sense of the justice of what could       on the front-lawn, he beheld Willoughby and Dr. Middleton
           be said to reprove her. She had but one answer: “Anything            together, the latter having halted to lend attentive ear to his
           but marry him!” It threw her on her nature, our last and head-       excellent host. Unnoticed by them or disregarded, Vernon
           long advocate, who is quick as the flood to hurry us from the        turned back to Laetitia, and sauntered, talking with her of
           heights to our level, and lower, if there be accidental gaps in      things current for as long as he could endure to listen to praise
           the channel. For say we have been guilty of misconduct: can          of his pure self-abnegation; proof of how well he had dis-
           we redeem it by violating that which we are and live by? The         guised himself, but it smacked unpleasantly to him. His
           question sinks us back to the luxuriousness of a sunny relin-        humourous intimacy with men’s minds likened the source of
           quishment of effort in the direction against tide. Our nature        this distaste to the gallant all-or-nothing of the gambler, who
           becomes ingenious in devices, penetrative of the enemy, con-         hates the little when he cannot have the much, and would
           fidently citing its cause for being frankly elvish or worse. Clara   rather stalk from the tables clean-picked than suffer ruin to
           saw a particular way of forcing herself to be surrendered. She       be tickled by driblets of the glorious fortune he has played
           shut her eyes from it: the sight carried her too violently to her    for and lost. If we are not to be beloved, spare us the small
           escape; but her heart caught it up and huzzaed. To press the         coin of compliments on character; especially when they com-
           points of her fingers at her bosom, looking up to the sky as         pliment only our acting. It is partly endurable to win eulogy
           she did, and cry: “I am not my own; I am his!” was instigation       for our stately fortitude in losing, but Laetitia was unaware
           sufficient to make her heart leap up with all her body’s blush       that he flung away a stake; so she could not praise him for his
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           to urge it to recklessness. A despairing creature then may say       merits.
           she has addressed the heavens and has had no answer to re-               “Willoughby makes the pardoning of Crossjay condi-
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           522                                                                                                                                523

           tional,” he said, “and the person pleading for him has to grant          “No.” She coloured. “I am ‘in with rest’. I do not say I
           the terms. How could you imagine Willoughby would give               should have done the same. But I have the knowledge that I
           her up! How could he! Who! . . . He should, is easily said. I        must not sit in judgement on her. I can waver.”
           was no witness of the scene between them just now, but I                 She coloured again. She was anxious that he should know
           could have foretold the end of it; I could almost recount the        her to be not that stupid statue of Constancy in a corner
           passages. The consequence is, that everything depends upon           doating on the antic Deception. Reminiscences of the inter-
           the amount of courage she possesses. Dr. Middleton won’t             view overnight made it oppressive to her to hear herself praised
           leave Patterne yet. And it is of no use to speak to him to-day.      for always pointing like the needle. Her newly enfranchised
           And she is by nature impatient, and is rendered desperate.”          individuality pressed to assert its existence. Vernon, however,
               “Why is it of no use to speak to Dr. Middleton today?”           not seeing this novelty, continued, to her excessive discom-
           cried Laetitia.                                                      fort, to baste her old abandoned image with his praises. They
               “He drank wine yesterday that did not agree with him; he         checked hers; and, moreover, he had suddenly conceived an
           can’t work. To-day he is looking forward to Patterne Port. He        envy of her life-long, uncomplaining, almost unaspiring, con-
           is not likely to listen to any proposals to leave to-day.”           stancy of sentiment. If you know lovers when they have not
               “Goodness!”                                                      reason to be blissful, you will remember that in this mood of
               “I know the depth of that cry!”                                  admiring envy they are given to fits of uncontrollable maun-
               “You are excluded, Mr. Whitford.”                                dering. Praise of constancy, moreover, smote shadowily a cer-
               “Not a bit of it; I am in with the rest. Say that men are to     tain inconstant, enough to seem to ruffle her smoothness and
           be exclaimed at. Men have a right to expect you to know your         do no hurt. He found his consolation in it, and poor Laetitia
           own minds when you close on a bargain. You don’t know the            writhed. Without designing to retort, she instinctively grasped
           world or yourselves very well, it’s true; still the original error   at a weapon of defence in further exalting his devotedness;
           is on your side, and upon that you should fix your attention.        which reduced him to cast his head to the heavens and im-
           She brought her father here, and no sooner was he very com-          plore them to partially enlighten her. Nevertheless, maunder
           fortably established than she wished to dislocate him.”              he must; and he recurred to it in a way so utterly unlike him-
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               “I cannot explain it; I cannot comprehend it,” said Laetitia.    self that Laetitia stared in his face. She wondered whether
               “You are Constancy.”                                             there could be anything secreted behind this everlasting theme
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           524                                                                                                                               525

           of constancy. He took her awakened gaze for a summons to                “I am not alone.”
           asseverations of sincerity, and out they came. She would have           “Again let me say, I wish I were like you!”
           fled from him, but to think of flying was to think how little it        “Then let me add, I would willingly make the exchange!”
           was that urged her to fly, and yet the thought of remaining             “You would be amazed at your bargain.”
           and listening to praises undeserved and no longer flattering,           “Others would be!”
           was a torture.                                                          “Your exchange would give me the qualities I’m in want
               “Mr. Whitford, I bear no comparison with you.”                  of, Miss Dale.”
               “I do and must set you for my example, Miss Dale.”                  “Negative, passive, at the best, Mr. Whitford. But I should
               “Indeed, you do wrongly; you do not know me.”                   have . . .”
               “I could say that. For years . . .”                                 “Oh!—pardon me. But you inflict the sensations of a boy,
               “Pray, Mr. Whitford!”                                           with a dose of honesty in him, called up to receive a prize he
               “Well, I have admired it. You show us how self can be           has won by the dexterous use of a crib.”
           smothered.”                                                             “And how do you suppose she feels who has a crown of
               “An echo would be a retort on you!”                             Queen o’ the May forced on her head when she is verging on
               “On me? I am never thinking of anything else.”                  November?”
               “I could say that.”                                                 He rejected her analogy, and she his. They could neither
               “You are necessarily conscious of not swerving.”                of them bring to light the circumstances which made one
               “But I do; I waver dreadfully; I am not the same two days       another’s admiration so unbearable. The more he exalted her
           running.”                                                           for constancy, the more did her mind become bent upon criti-
               “You are the same, with ‘ravishing divisions’ upon the same.”   cally examining the object of that imagined virtue; and the
               “And you without the ‘divisions.’ I draw such support as I      more she praised him for possessing the spirit of perfect friend-
           have from you.”                                                     liness, the fiercer grew the passion in him which disdained
               “From some simulacrum of me, then. And that will show           the imputation, hissing like a heated iron-bar that flings the
           you how little you require support.”                                waterdrops to steam. He would none of it; would rather have
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               “I do not speak my own opinion only.”                           stood exposed in his profound foolishness.
               “Whose?”                                                            Amiable though they were, and mutually affectionate, they
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           526                                                                                                                                527

           came to a stop in their walk, longing to separate, and not              Vernon bowed to the Professor and apologized to him
           seeing how it was to be done, they had so knit themselves            shufflingly and rapidly, incoherently, and with a red face;
           together with the pelting of their interlaudation.                   which induced Mrs. Mountstuart to scan Laetitia’s.
               “I think it is time for me to run home to my father for an          After lecturing Vernon for his abandonment of her yes-
           hour,” said Laetitia.                                                terday evening, and flouting his protestations, she returned to
               “I ought to be working,” said Vernon.                            the business of the day. “We walked from the lodge-gates to
               Good progress was made to the disgarlanding of them-             see the park and prepare ourselves for Dr. Middleton. We
           selves thus far; yet, an acutely civilized pair, the abruptness of   parted last night in the middle of a controversy and are rageing
           the transition from floweriness to commonplace affected them         to resume it. Where is our redoubtable antagonist?”
           both, Laetitia chiefly, as she had broken the pause, and she            Mrs. Mountstuart wheeled Professor Crooklyn round to
           remarked:—”I am really Constancy in my opinions.”                    accompany Vernon.
               “Another title is customary where stiff opinions are con-           “We,” she said, “are for modern English scholarship, op-
           cerned. Perhaps by and by you will learn your mistake, and           posed to the champion of German.”
           then you will acknowledge the name for it.”                             “The contrary,” observed Professor Crooklyn.
               “How?” said she. “What shall I learn?”                              “Oh! We,” she corrected the error serenely, “are for Ger-
               “If you learn that I am a grisly Egoist?”                        man scholarship opposed to English.”
               “You? And it would not be egoism,” added Laetitia, re-              “Certain editions.”
           vealing to him at the same instant as to herself that she swung         “We defend certain editions.”
           suspended on a scarce credible guess.                                   “Defend is a term of imperfect application to my position,
               “—Will nothing pierce your ears, Mr. Whitford?”                  ma’am.”
               He heard the intruding voice, but he was bent on rubbing            “My dear Professor, you have in Dr. Middleton a match
           out the cloudy letters Laetitia had begun to spell, and he           for you in conscientious pugnacity, and you will not waste it
           stammered, in a tone of matter-of-fact: “Just that and no bet-       upon me. There, there they are; there he is. Mr. Whitford
           ter”; then turned to Mrs. Mountstuart Jenkinson.                     will conduct you. I stand away from the first shock.”
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               “—Or are you resolved you will never see Professor                  Mrs. Mountstuart fell back to Laetitia, saying: “He pores
           Crooklyn when you look on him?” said the great lady.                 over a little inexactitude in phrases, and pecks at it like a do-
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           528                                                                                                                                529

           mestic fowl.”                                                        distress, and must pass it off as a form of mine, while it lasts.
               Professor Crooklyn’s attitude and air were so well described     I talked Dr. Middleton half the dreary night through to my
           that Laetitia could have laughed.                                    pillow. Your candid opinion, my dear, come! As for me, I don’t
               “These mighty scholars have their flavour,” the great lady       hesitate. We seemed to have sat down to a solitary perfor-
           hastened to add, lest her younger companion should be mis-           mance on the bass-viol. We were positively an assembly of
           led to suppose that they were not valuable to a governing            insects during thunder. My very soul thanked Colonel De
           hostess: “their shadow-fights are ridiculous, but they have their    Craye for his diversions, but I heard nothing but Dr.
           flavour at a table. Last night, no: I discard all mention of last    Middleton. It struck me that my table was petrified, and ev-
           night. We failed: as none else in this neighbourhood could           ery one sat listening to bowls played overhead.”
           fail, but we failed. If we have among us a cormorant devour-             “I was amused.”
           ing young lady who drinks up all the—ha!—brandy and wa-                  “Really? You delight me. Who knows but that my guests
           ter—of our inns and occupies all our flys, why, our condition        were sincere in their congratulations on a thoroughly success-
           is abnormal, and we must expect to fail: we are deprived of          ful evening? I have fallen to this, you see! And I know, wretched
           accommodation for accidental circumstances. How Mr.                  people! that as often as not it is their way of condoling with
           Whitford could have missed seeing Professor Crooklyn! And            one. I do it myself: but only where there have been amiable
           what was he doing at the station, Miss Dale?”                        efforts. But imagine my being congratulated for that!—Good-
               “Your portrait of Professor Crooklyn was too striking, Mrs       morning, Sir Willoughby.—The worst offender! and I am in
           Mountstuart, and deceived him by its excellence. He appears          no pleasant mood with him,” Mrs. Mountstuart said aside to
           to have seen only the blank side of the slate.”                      Laetitia, who drew back, retiring.
               “Ah! He is a faithful friend of his cousin, do you not think?”       Sir Willoughby came on a step or two. He stopped to
               “He is the truest of friends.”                                   watch Laetitia’s figure swimming to the house.
               “As for Dr. Middleton,” Mrs. Mountstuart diverged from               So, as, for instance, beside a stream, when a flower on the
           her inquiry, “he will swell the letters of my vocabulary to          surface extends its petals drowning to subside in the clear still
           gigantic proportions if I see much of him: he is contagious.”        water, we exercise our privilege to be absent in the charmed
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               “I believe it is a form of his humour.”                          contemplation of a beautiful natural incident.
               “I caught it of him yesterday at my dinner-table in my               A smile of pleased abstraction melted on his features.
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           530